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Citation Research and Impact Metrics

Introduction to Journal Assessment

Journal rankings quantify a journal's performance using citation data. The original journal ranking scheme is the "Journal Impact Factor" (JIF) produced from citation counts collected from the Web of Science database. Several other schemes developed since then include Eigenfactor, Scimago Journal Ranking (SJR), Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), and most recently, CiteScore. Most of these subsequent schemes purport to improve upon the JIF by including field normalization into their calculations, however, all of the schemes have weaknesses.

In this section, we focus on two of the journal ranking metrics, CiteScore and JIF, however, we also have a brief selection of other Journal Rankings.

Important Points:

  • Ever since the JIF was invented, journal rankings have been misunderstood and frequently misused.
  • Journal rankings evaluate the performance of a journal as a whole but say nothing about the impact or quality of an individual article within the journal(1). If one examines the citation distribution curve for journals, it's easy to see that article citation counts within the journal vary but do so along a similar curve regardless of each journal's rank(2). Publication in a highly ranked journal does not guarantee an article will have impact, nor does publication in a low ranked journal indicate the absence of impact. Consequently, journal rankings should not be used to assess an author's publication packet nor an article's impact as the rankings measure neither author nor article performance.

Best Uses:

  • Journal rankings were originally intended to help librarians determine what journals should be in their collections and for editors to compare their journal's performance to others in the same field. These remain acceptable uses for journal rankings.
  • Journal rankings also help researchers find appropriate places for submitting their articles, although researchers should also consider such things as the journal's subject content, readership, and open access/open data policies. (See Getting Published)


  1. Berg, Jeremy. JIFfy Pop.Science, 353(6299): 523, 2016. doi:
  2. Lariviere, Vincent; Kiermer, Veronique; MacCallum, Catriona J.; McNutt, Marcia; Patterson, Mark; Pulverer, Bernd; Swaminathan, Sowmya; Taylor, Stuart; and Curry, Stephen. A simple proposal for the publication of journal citation distributions. bioRxiv preprint first posted online Jul. 5, 2016. doi:

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