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What are Research Metrics

Research metrics are quantitative values designed to help evaluate research outputs according to a variety of indicators. These indicators may relate to the author, the journal or the paper. There are a large number of metrics available, but they all have some limitations, and any indications they give should be evaluated against a broader background of peer-review.

The tabs in the box below cover Citation based metrics, Journal Rankings, H-Index and Altmetrics.

There are a number of tutorials online to help you understand Metrics. MyRI's helpful tutorial on measuring research impact is one such tutorial, your Academic Librarian Team  can also advise.


When we talk about ‘Bibliometrics’ we refer to the quantitative measures used to assess research output i.e. publication and citation data analysis.

The most basic metrics are just number of citations a particular work has received. The number of citations from authors of other papers is one of the most basic research metrics. This varies discipline by discipline and citation counts within the Humanities and Social Sciences are not comparable with those in Biomedical Sciences or Engineering. It also varies with time since publication.

Staff note: Symplectic includes citation count information from Scopus. The only citations displayed within Symplectic will be those cited by sources gathered by Scopus.Google Scholar is a free alternative that has broader coverage of sources where the citation may occur, but lacks the quality control of Scopus. It is important to note that citation data from each source may vary.

Journal rankings are a means of judging the relative importance of a journal within its field.

Journal Impact Factor is only one of various metrics which can be used to rank journals, all are based on varying quantitative calculations based upon numbers of papers and citations. If a title has an Impact Factor, it is usually listed in the ‘About’ section of a journal’s homepage. An annually updated list of journals with Impact Factors is available, as well as a searchable list of titles.

There are several different Journal Impact Factors available.

1. JCR - Journal Citation Reports (ThompsonReuters)

If a title has an Impact Factor, it is usually listed in the ‘About’ section of a journal’s homepage. An annually updated list of journals with Impact Factors is available, as well as a searchable list of titles. JCR are only available for the 12000 journals indexed within Web of Science covering Sciences, Technology and the Social Sciences. LBU do not have access to Journal Citation Reports

2. SCJ - SCImago Journal Rank (Elsevier)

SCImago's "evaluation of scholarly journals is to assign weights to bibliographic citations based on the importance of the journals that issued them, so that citations issued by more important journals will be more valuable than those issued by less important ones." The weightings are averaged over the past 3 years. Includes the 15000 journals indexed within Scopus. Access available through Scopus.

3. SNIP - Source Normalised Impact per Paper

SNIP rankings attempt to remove the discipline-based subjectivity of other journal impact factors. The impact of a citation is given greater weighting in fields of study where citations are less common. Access to the rankings is available by Open Access from the CWTS at the University of Leiden.


Other useful tools include Publish or Perish which analyses data from Google Scholar:

More information on journal rankings is available from module 3 of MyRI's helpful tutorial on measuring research impact, and your Academic Librarian can also advise.


The h-index is a popular metric in the sciences and is used to assess an individual, group of individuals or an institution. The h-index (a single number) takes into account productivity (paper count) AND impact (citations). If an individual has a h-index of 7, this means that 7 of their papers have been cited at least 7 times each.

A word of caution: As with other key metrics, the h-index can only be used effectively by comparing like with like, for example: similar institutions, individuals in a similar discipline and at a similar stage in their career. The calculation will also depend on the tool used.

STAFF note: Symplectic derives h-index from Web of Science (not subscribed to by Leeds Beckett) and Scopus and will only apply to publication records from those sources.

click here to access Scopus


N.B.Google Scholar is a free alternative that has broader coverage but lacks the quality control of Scopus It is important to note that citation data from each source may vary.

Quantitative measures provide just one part of the picture.  They should only be used where it is appropriate to do so and with an understanding that it is extremely difficult to compare across disciplines without taking into account a discipline's publication and citation patterns.

It is also widely acknowledged that the main citation tools do not offer the ability to produce appropriate and accurate metrics in Humanities, Engineering and Computer Science which are less dependent on journals when compared to other disciplines. The coverage of areas within the Social Sciences is also limited in a number of tools.

Altmetrics are alternative metrics - rather than the traditional bibliometrics that measure your citation counts and journal impact factors that you may be used to.

Altmetrics measure the 'mentions' of your research (anything with a DOI), through social media, blogs, news reports and websites. They can be a powerful tool in helping you disseminate your research beyond the academic sphere, providing results as soon as your research is published and allowing you to ensure it is represented and interpreted accurately.

There are several tools you can use to check your alternative metrics;Impact Story,Kudos,Plum Analytics and Altmetric.We use Altmetric as it integrates with Symplectic and our repository - you may have seen the coloured 'donut' icon next to your article which indicates the Altmetric score for each output:

You can see your donuts on Symplectic or next to each record in the repository. Each coloured strand represents a different type of 'mention' and Altmetric calculates an overall score, giving more weight to news reports and adjusting for duplication. Clicking on the donut will take you to a detailed page where you can see each of these mentions and where they originate. This enables you to monitor how your research is disseminated.

The Research Service provide support with altmetrics and using social media to effectively disseminate your research - please contact us if you would like any guidance.

STAFF note: Symplectic Elements tracks altmetrics via for any record that includes a Digital Object Identifier (DOI).

Look out for the altmetric "donut" on your records in Symplectic: