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Citation Analysis: Author Impact: General

Tools to measure how a particular researcher or journal is cited.

Author Citation Analysis

Analysis of the citations to a particular author's work can be one component of evaluating the quality of that person's scholarly writing or the impact they have had on their discipline.

A variety of measures have been developed in this regard including:

  • Citation count: the total number of citations to an author's work
  • Average Citation Rate:  the ratio of total citations to the number of original works authored
  • h-index: a measure (described elsewhere on this page) that mitigates the effects of highly cited or recent non-cited works

Citation analysis as a qualitative measurement should be used cautiously, for the following reasons:

  • Citation rates and practices vary widely between discipilnes.  Citation analysis of scholars in one field should not be compared to those in another.
  • Where a scholar publishes can have a great impact on the analysis if the tools used to count citations do not index the publications where a scholarly work is cited.  This is particularly true for those that publish in international journals, smaller regional or local publications, or in non-journal sources such as books.
  • Citation rates can be influenced by other practices such as self-citation.

The h-Index

The h-index was developed in 2005 by J.E. Hirsch as a method for quantifying the relative impact of an author by counting the number of citations to his or her publications. 

An author has an index of h if there are at most h papers that have been cited at least h times. 

A researcher's h-index can be determined by listing their publications in descending order of times cited and counting down the list to the last paper for which the number of times cited exceeds the number of papers counted.  Some databases, such as Web of Science, will calculate an h-index based on the number of citations to an author in that database.

Rather than a measure of the average number of citations, which can be skewed by either a single highly-cited article, or many new articles which have not yet been cited, this is thought to provide a measurement that avoids over-emphasizing these extreme cases.  However, h-index varies by discipline according to the citation practices of a particular field, and should only be used for relative comparisons within a particular discipline.

Hirsch's original paper on the topic appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences 102(46), 16569-16572.

Web of Science vs. Google Scholar

Which source of citation data is better, Web of Science or Google Scholar?

Each may have its advantages (and disadvantages), so it really is best to compare the results of both... as well as other discipline-specific databases that include citation data.

Anne-Wil Harzig, at the Univ. of Melbourne and creator of Publish or Perish software, does a good analysis of the relative disadvantages of both databases in her web article, Google Scholar: A New Data Source for Citation Analysis.

Other databases that included Citation information

Other research databases may include citation information and may be searched to determine if there are any additional citing publications for an article.  All of these databases only list citations from articles in their database, and will miss citations from journals and other publications not in the database.  Because of the better subject coverage of some of these databases than Web of Science, they are good places to search in addition to a WoS search.