How does a researcher gauge the impact of their research? How do administrators objectively evaluate the performance of a researcher? While both questions are difficult to answer, below are numeric measures that can provide a rough snapshot of impact.

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Citation count

The number of citations to articles and books provides a measurable indicator of research impact, suggesting how much their work is being used to advance the research of others.

Be aware: raw citation counts will vary depending on the data source, and it is hard to compare researchers in different fields and at different career stages. Citation counts can be found in:

  • Web of Science: A large interdisciplinary citation database.. 
  • Scopus: Works like Web of Science. It searches a slightly different group of citations and will provide another sense of impact.
  • Google Scholar: This free database counts citations from both scholarly and non-scholarly sources.
  • Some subject-specific databases now include citation counts, including SciFinder Scholar for chemistry and MathSciNet for mathematics. Check with your subject librarian to find similar databases in your field. 

Article download count

Some platforms provide download counts for individual publications. Examples of platforms that provide download counts include the University’s Digital Conservancy (via an item's Stats Display), and Public Library of Science (in an article's Metrics tab). 

Because of non-uniform cirteria, there is no standard way to aggregate counts from different systems. 


h-index measures productivity as well as impact by counting how many of an author’s papers have been cited how many times. For example: to have an h-index of 5, five of a scholar’s publications must have been cited by others at least five times each.

While more sophisticated than plain citation counts, the h-index shares the limitations of incomparability across fields and across career stages. An individual’s h-index may be found in:


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Contact your subject specialist

For questions and further information, contact your subject librarian.

Consult our handout for more information.