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Research Impact Library Guide: Home

The guide covers ways you can measure your impact as a researcher.

A Caution


  • Research impact measures are not comparable across disciplines. For example, citation counts in Social Sciences and Humanities are lower because researchers are more often publishing in books and conference papers that are not well covered by citation databases.


  • No one database will provide a comprehensive measurement of impact. Variations occur because citation tools have different source materials, date ranges and sometime erroneous records. There is no single tool for catching all citations so you need to use a number of tools to try to cover all bases.


  • The results between citation databases are not comparable since their coverage varies.


  • Citation counts alone are not an indication of excellent research. The numbers that are generated are not absolutes. They should be used with other qualitative measures such as esteem.

In this Guide


In this guide we suggest tools that let you:

  • manage your research identity
  • find and track your citations

Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets or one stop shops -  you need to use a number of tools to cover all bases.  

Why track citations?

Citation tracking, or citation analysis is an important tool used to trace scholarly research, measure impact, and inform tenure and funding decisions.It looks at the number of times that a work has been cited in the bibliographies of other works. 


The impact of an article is evaluated by counting the number of times other authors cite it in their work.   A high number of citations usually indicates a highly regarded work, but it can also indicate a well-known but controversial work to which a number of authors have referred. 


Researchers do citation analysis for several reasons:

  • find out how much impact a particular article has had, by showing which other authors have cited the article in their own paper
  • find out how much impact a particular author has had by looking at the frequency and number of his/her total citations
  • discover more about the development of a field or topic (by reading the papers that cite a seminal work in that area)


The output from citation studies is often the only way that non-specialists in governments and funding agencies, or even those in different scientific disciplines, can judge the importance of a piece of scientific research.  


Different databases offer the opportunity to sort by number of citations, to investigate patterns, create graphs and maps to provide a visual depiction of these citation patterns, to search within citations and to examine journal rankings.


The Department of Higher Education has accredited journals listed on Web of Science and the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences as well as its own list of South African titles.

Useful Tools

Where can I go for help?


Each of the databases have their own internal help facilities that you can access.   To access a specific database, go to the Databases A-Z list and click directly on the first letter of the database name.  

Or ask your subject librarian for assistance.



This libguide is based on similar guides from the Sheridan Libraries at John Hopkins University and the University Library at the University of Melbourne and  University of Waterloo Library.       

With grateful thanks and acknowledgements.