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Citation Research and Impact Metrics

What You Need to Know

At one time, only the Web of Science database collected citation count data. Originally, Science Citation Index, as it was known when first published in print in the early- to mid-1970s, focused on the article-centric science literature but now has expanded to almost every subject area. In addition, citation count data is found in many indexing or abstracting services, not just Web of Science. What was once a unique feature is now common but therein lies some issues of concern.

Important Points:

  • Citation counts are not a measure of quality as articles may be cited for both negative as well as positive reasons. Why something is being cited must always be considered in the assessment.
  • Citation behavior varies from subject area to subject area depending on many disparate factors such as the preferred document type (books vs journal articles vs conference papers vs patents), authors and audience (practitioners vs researchers), and environment (industry vs academic). Consequently, raw citation counts cannot be compared across subject areas, even for those subjects that may seem closely related.
  • Although many indexing or abstracting services provide citation counts, each source only counts what's in its database. Note that:
    • Many services are counting the same sources (ex. all the well-known journals within the field). This duplication prevents a simple addition of scores across the services to get a total citation count. If you add counts obtained from different services, you must remove the duplicates in order to have a realistic total.
    • As most services focus on the literature in one subject area (ex. PubMed databases covers health sciences) they are looking at fewer sources for citation data than the large multidisciplinary databases (ex. Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar). This can lead to the erroneous conclusion that searching the specialized services is unnecessary, however, these specialized indexing and abstracting services may pick up citations from obscure journals and non-journal literature for that subject that the multi-disciplinary databases don't.

Best Uses:

  • Finding out who is citing your publications and why. Have your publications proved beneficial to research outside of the expected subject areas and/or in unexpected ways?
  • Comparing citation counts within the same, focused subject area or within the same journal; in each comparison the articles must have been published in the same timeframe.
  • Some citation benchmark metrics may be used for comparisons across subject areas.


Data contained in Experts.ASU is derived from Elsevier's Scopus database. As the name implies, only data for ASU faculty is available; for articles not in Experts.ASU, use the Scopus database to obtain a citation count. Because the data comes from the same source, you may compare citation counts from Experts.ASU with citations counts from Scopus (provided the articles are in the same field and published close to the same date.)

  1. Go to Experts.ASU
  2. In the center of the screen change the search field from "Everything" to "Scholarly Works" and in the search box put the title of the journal article. (Putting the title within quote marks will make the search more efficient; for long titles, searching the first 5-7 words is usually sufficient.)
  3. On the results page, find the article and look to the right of the screen for the citation count. If the article has one, you will also see the colorful "Altmetric donut".
    screenshot of experts.asu with altmetric donut

To find citation counts in Google Scholar: 

  1. Go to Google Scholar via the ASU Library's website
  2. Enter the title of the document within quote marks
  3. The Google Scholar citation count will be the first item of the last line of the article's entry.  If the article has been covered in Web of Science, the citation count from that source will also be displayed. 

  4. To see what documents cited this article, click on the "Cited by" link.

To find citation counts in Scopus

  1. Go to the Scopus database
  2. Search by the document's title
  3. In the results list, look in the far-right hand column for the citation count. 
  4. To see what documents cited the document, click on the citation count. 

To find article citation counts in Web of Science:

  1. Go to the Web of Science database
  2. Search by the article's title
  3. In the results list, look in the far-right hand column for the citation count. 
  4. To see what documents cited the article, click on the citation count. 

BUT ... you may be missing some citations.  View the following video to see how to do a more comprehensive search that will pick up not only correct citations but also the "variant" ones, too.  Usually, going through the "Cited Reference Search" will add just a few citations to the count but in other cases, you could be missing out on tens or even hundreds of citations - the more popular an article, the more likely it will have been cited incorrectly or with missing citation elements.  

In addition to the two large multidisciplinary databases developed for citation analysis (Web of Science and Scopus), many other indexing and abstracting service now also provide citation counts for the articles in their databases.  These other databases have limitations, however, mainly because they do not have as wide a scope of sources from which they pull the data and for the lack of specific citation reports the larger databases can generate.  Frequently, citation counts from subject-focused databases will be smaller than the counts obtained from Web of Science, Scopus or Google Scholar. 

For example, while PubMed provides citation counts for articles, it is only looking at the other articles in the PubMed database to obtain that count.  Should an article in PubMed be cited by a social sciences journal article, PubMed will not be able to count that citation.  

On the other hand, these specialized subject databases may cover some lesser-known journals in the field or even cover types of literature (patents, conference papers) that the larger services don't.  If your goal is to find as much literature as you can that has cited an article then always include searching the specialized subject databases in your area in addition to the large multi-disciplinary ones.  

As always, make "apples to apples" comparisons; if you use citation counts from a subject focused service, only compare them with counts from the same service.

Most citation counts in other databases will either be located on each entry in the results list (similar to Web of Science or Scopus) or you may have to click on the title in each entry to find the count on the "full record" page.  


PsycInfo (ProQuest)


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