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GR ST 529: Preparing Publishable Thesis Chapters

Writing support for graduate students

Introduction to Metrics

Metrics are quantitative measures designed to help evaluate research outputs. Some of these metrics, such as an h-index, apply to an author and their work. Other metrics, such as journal acceptance rates and impact factor, relate to the journal itself. While these metrics should not be used alone to assess the quality of a journal, they are one option available to you. 

There are so many metrics that try to measure impact and prestige of scholarship and research articles. None is perfect. You'll need to decide which ones are important for you to pay attention to, and which you can do without. Knowing the norms and expectations of your discipline is also critically important.

"Well, "good" depends on several variables. First, what is her field of study? What's considered "good" in Clinical Medicine (84) is different than what is considered "good" in Mathematics (19). Some fields simply publish and cite more than others."
Impactstory Team (March 26, 2014). Four Great Reasons to Stop Caring So Much about the H-Index.

Scopus Sources

One tool that you can use to find metrics for journals in your field is Scopus. Scopus provides tools for tracking citations and author publications, but it can also be used to find journal-level metrics such as # of citations per year and impact factor. 

Be aware: not all journals are indexed in Scopus. Depending on your subject specialty, you may need to use a different tool or site to find informaton about your selected journal(s). 

Help Using Scopus Sources

Once you get to the main Scopus page from our link above, click on the "Sources" link on the top of the webpage: 

Screenshot of Scopus menu

Once you get to the Sources interface, you'll be greeted with a fairly straightforward search screen. You can choose to search for publications by Subject Area, Title, Publisher, or ISSN. We will be searching by Subject Area, the default choice.

Click on the next tab to continue, or explore the resource yourself!

To retrieve a list of journals in your subject area, Click in the "enter subject area" box on the top of the page and either start typing or browse the fields listed and select the box(es) that correspond the most closely to your subject area:

Screenshot of Scopus sources subject search box

Your results will automatically be grouped by CiteScore, but you can click on any modifier on the top of the results (% Cited, SJR, # of citations) to see how the rankings change based on the metric being applied.


Use the fields on the left side of the screen to narrow your results:

Screenshot of Filter options in Scopus Sources

You can limit by Open Access journals, trade publications, or you can choose to only display publications that have published at least x amount of documents in the past year. 

Be sure to limit your search to Journals, since that is your main interest for this class. 

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Find a Journal's Impact Factor

Most of us have heard of "Impact Factor," but what is it?

A journal's Impact Factor is a proprietary, journal-level metric. It is calculated through a unique method applied by an annual publication called Journal Citation Reports, or JCR.

Some of the navigation features on InCites JCR are not intuitive. Check the tabs here for easy steps on how to get started!

JCR is comprised of records pertaining to thousands of journals in the sciences and in the social sciences. After you start a search or browse, you'll see a Select Edition choice on JCR's left menu. SCIE means Science Edition (for science & technology disciplines) and SSCI means Social Sciences Edition.  Both are selected by default. Select the relevant edition for your subject area.  

InCites JCR Edition

Click the next tab in this tutorial to continue!

1.  Choose Select Categories on JCR's left menu - this allows you to drill down to a list of journals in specific subject areas / disciplines.

2.  Choose subject area of interest from the list by selecting adjacent box.  

JCR Subject selection


Note: There is no "submit" or "save" button! 

Just make your selection and move on to the next step.



3. Scroll down now to find Submit button at the bottom of JCR's left menu, and click.   

You should now see a list of journals in your selected subject area. The default organization is by journal Impact Factor, sorted from highest to lowest impact. 

Note: If you want to search a different subject, you'll need to first use the left menu's Clear button at the bottom of the page, next to the Submit button.

When you click on a specific journal in your JCR search results, you can view the past 10 years or so of that journal's metrics.  You can also view journal table of contents for a recent issue. You can browse individual articles' abstracts and metrics. This can give you an idea of the types of articles that journal publishes.

Click the next tab of this tutorial for next steps...

When you search journals by subject, you can select several journals on your list and compare them with each other with the Compare Selected Journals link at the top left in your list.  You'll then need to make a few more selections to indicate HOW you wish to compare them.

Note: First, use the Clear button at the bottom of the left menu to clear any previous searches / search results.

Next, once again on the left menu, choosing Trends (under Select Comparison - see the *  below for a description of Quartile search) is a very useful way to see how / if journal performance has changed over the years. For example, you might see that a newer journal is steadily gaining in importance over the years. Under Years, note that you can choose more than 1 year if you wish.  At the bottom of the left menu, choose the Metric you want to compare, such as JIF (Journal Impact Factor, Immediacy, etc), then once again Submit.

JCR Select Journals

Alternatively, if you already know the names of journals you wish to compare, there's no need to pull together a subject list first.  Just go directly to JCR's left menu and in Select Journals, type in the names of the journals you wish to compare. When you're done, click Submit at the bottom of the left menu.

If your journals do not all show up in the results box once you hit Submit, they may be listed under different Categories. Click the Select Categories box and select different subject areas to see your results for other journals in your search. 

* Select comparison also lists Quartiles: Journals in a particular subject area are ranked by Impact factor (IF), and then the list is divided in four groups: Quartile 1 represents the top 25% of the journals in terms of highest IF. Q2 is the top 26%-50%, Q3 51%-75%, and Q4 76%-100%. You may select WHICH quartile you wish to see / compare.

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Your Librarian

Abbey Elder's picture
Abbey Elder
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University