Bibliometrics in the bibliothek

I recently muddled my way through the Journal Citation Report with a very patient PhD student. On seeing a bibliometrics session on our Staff Development Hour programme, I knew I needed it.

But what are bibliometrics? The first I heard of them was during my graduate traineeship, when I sat in on a skills workshop for postgraduates and researchers. They are a quantitative method to measure publishing and author citation patterns, in turn to measure scholarly output.

If you haven’t heard of bibliometrics, you may have come across the phrase impact factor. This is the most commonly used metric, and uses the Journal Citation Report. It takes the number of times articles from a journal are cited over a set period, divided by the total number citable articles in that journal. At my institution, we can access the Journal CItation Report through Web of Knowledge. This metric is used for finding journals which are considered top of their field, or highly desirable to publish in, for example.

Another type of bibliometric is the h-index, or Hirsch indexThis is one I hadn’t heard of at all, and is a bit tricky to explain. It takes into account both the number of citations an author receives, and their productivity. It is a way to find metrics for authors, rather than particular journals. Very basically, an author has written certain number of articles (x). x has been cited y times. When put in order of their citation number, the h-index is the point at which y > x or y = x. Hopefully this will be clearer with some examples:

Our author has published nine articles, which have been cited by other people various numbers of times. Their first article was cited five times, article two was cited 17 times, article three cited eight times, and so on.


For the h-index, we need to put these into order, of descending number of citations. The last point at which the number of citations is higher or equal to the number of the article, that is our h-index. As such, this author’s h-index is 6.

Apologies for the tippex splodge!

Since that training on bibliometrics, I have helped a different student with finding the impact factor of a selection of journals, and I expect I will have more queries in the future. It’s a tricky bunch of jargon, and took a little playing around to get used to, but is well worth knowing about.

The University of Southampton Library have some great pages on bibliometrics, if you want more than my very brief explanations.


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