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Citation Research and Impact Metrics

What You Need to Know

Usage counts show interest in the article even though the reader may never end up citing the article. On the other hand, the usage count only reflects the usage the article has received via that specific database or website; consequently, the usage count may not reflect the full level of interest.

Important Points:

  • Articles may not have a usage count as these counts appear only in some databases and at some publishers. Consequently, the absence of a usage count does not mean the article has never been used.
  • No consistency. Each database and website counts usage differently. Sometimes the count is how often a link was clicked to landing page (usually just the abstract but not necessarily to the full text. In other cases, views of the full text may be counted but not downloads.
  • Theoretically, articles available for a longer time have an advantage over more currently published articles, however, usage counts are a relatively new metric so the count may only reflect usage from a few recent years even for older articles.
  • Do not add usage counts from different sources as you may end up counting a single transaction more than once.
  • Usage counts do not determine the quality of an article as there are both positive as well as negative reasons to view the article.


  • Usage counts help to determine if there is interest in the article, but
  • Only compare usage counts for different articles if the counts come from the same database/website and the articles are from the same time span.  


We recommend the following strategy for finding usage counts:

  1. First try the Web of Science, a multidisciplinary database for journal articles that started counting usage in February 2013.
  2. Next try specialized indexing/abstracting databases for that subject; look for usage counts on the:
    • Item record in a results list, or
    • Item's full record within the database.
  3. Finally, if neither of those avenues work, go to the publisher's web site; usage counts are most likely to appear on the landing page for the article (i.e., where you find the articles's abstract and link to the full text.) '

Regardless of where you find the count, always check to see how the count was determined (usually found in a help file.)

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