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Scholarly Impact and Citation Analysis

Tips and step-by-step directions on how to find citing articles, impact factors, and journal rankings.

Citation Analysis

What is citation analysis?

Citation analysis is a way of measuring the relative importance or impact of an author, an article or a publication by counting the number of times that author, article, or publication has been cited by other works.

Why conduct citation analysis?

Citation analysis may be conducted for following purposes:

  • To establish the impact that a particular work has had by identifying which other authors based their work upon it or cited it within their own papers.
  • To learn more about a field or a topic by identifying seminal works in that area.
  • To determine what impact a particular author has had within his/her own discipline and beyond by looking at his/her total number of citations broken down by discipline and by country.
  • For promotion and tenure purposes by looking at the quality of sources where a scholar’s work has been published and cited

Sources for Citation Analysis: There are several tools available for citation analysis, some are subscription-based and others are free. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses and none of them covers the entire universe of scholarly publications. Therefore, it is important to use more than one tool to get a fuller picture of the scholarly impact of an author or a journal. Below is a table highlighting the characteristics of three major citation analysis tools:

Subject Focus Science, Technology, Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities Science, Technology, Medical, Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities Medical, Scientific, Technical, Business, Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities

Composed of 3 citation indexes:

  • Science Citation Index Expanded — to 1900
  • Social Sciences Citation Index – to 1956
  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index –to 1975
  • Conference Proceedings -- to 1990


  • Life Sciences
  • Health Sciences, 800 titles (including 100% coverage of Medline titles)
  • Physical Sciences > 7,200 titles
  • Social Sciences > 5,300 titles
  • Selections from PubMed, IEEE, American Institute of Physics, proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,, American Medical Association and other medicine journals, Ingenta, SpringerLink,Wiley Interscience, Cambridge journals, Taylor and Francis, Sage Publications, Blackwell-Synergy, OCLC First Search and others
  • Open access journals and pre-prints
  • Online dissertations and theses
Coverage Over 10,000 journals 16,500 journals Unknown
Time Span Some journal files going back to 1900

38 million records, of which:

  • 19 million records include references going back to 1996 (78% include references)
  • 19 million pre-1996 records go back as far as 1823
Theoretically, whatever is available on the Web
1-2 times a week
Monthly on average
  • Deeper back-files especially for Science Journals
  • While controversial, its journal citation reports, impact factors, and h-index are most widely used.
  • User friendly search interface
  • Broader coverage of journals (16, 500 versus 10,000 in WOS)
  • Downloadable reference list
  • Provides a more comprehensive picture of scholarly impact as it indexes non-traditional sources not covered by WOS and Scopus.
  • Includes peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts, and articles from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities, and other scholarly organizations
  • Better coverage of newer materials than both WOS and Scopus
  • International and multi-lingual coverage
  • Can lead to low citation counts due to errors in citations provided by authors, and different citation styles used by journals leading to poor indexing
  • Citation tracking is limited to the relatively narrow time span of 1996+
  • Limited search features
  • Inflated citation counts due to inclusion of non-scholarly sources such as promotional pages, table of contents pages, course readings lists etc.
  • Weeding irrelevant hits is time consuming
  • Difficult to export citations
  • No way to determine what sources, and time spans are covered.
  • Limited to what is available on the Web