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Research impact and visibility: How to do citation analysis

Use of citations

Citation databases assist in the evaluation of publishing activities. They can be used to find out the volumes of publications and references and consider, e.g., which are the most referenced articles or journals. However, referencing itself is not always a quality criterion and there can be several reasons for referencing (negative references, ethnocentricity, self-references).

Citation analysis is used in the evaluation of research. Based on citations, one can evaluate scientific journals, individual researchers, research groups, disciplines, research institutes, universities and entire countries. For example when citation analyses are used in recruitment process, researchers must be aware of data concerning themselves.

Also, the researcher needs information about the number of articles he writes and the most cited publications, like in grant applications, CV, etc.

The main databases containing citation data are the multidisciplinary Scopus (Elsevier) and the Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics). Citations can also be searched from the freely available Google Scholar, as long as you remember its limitations.

Scopus

Scopus-logo.

Analysis tool

Web of Science

Web of Science-logo.

Analysis tool

Google Scholar / Publish or Perish

Google scholar-logo.

Citation database and analysis tool

Citation analysis - Principles and limitations

  • Citation analysis represents the attention the scientific articles receive i.e. how often a publication is cited in other publications.
  • Citation analysis is not a quality indicator. Highly cited publications are often considered being of high scientific quality but the number of citations may also indicate a controversial theme
  • Citation analysis finds only the citations to the publications included in the citation database. If a publication is not included in any citation database, its attention through citations stays out of reach.
  • No database cover all publications. Certain disciplines are represented better (e.g. medicine and natural sciences) than others (e.g. humanities and social sciences).

It is not possible to make cross- disciplinary comparisons. The reasons are differences in the most typical formats of publication, the rate of accrual of citations, and the prevalence of joint publications. 

Note:

  • The coverage of the citation database: extent, time period, different publishing types (e.g. conference papers, books).
  • The coverage of the field. How well are the scientific journals of the field represented in the citation database?
  • The speed of indexing the journals. How long is the delay in indexing in the database?
  • The extent of the database subscription. Are e.g. conference papers, books covered?
  • Language. Citation databases index mainly English language publications.