Researchers January 20, 2021
The Purpose of Measuring Citation Counts

Once upon a time in academic history, a scholar’s reputation was determined by things like the quality of his or her research, the impact the information that was produced by their articles in general, and the longevity of their career. Today, though, there is a lot more science behind this otherwise subjective standard, which is necessary because a scholar’s reputation now has a lot riding on it.

The Digital Era has significantly changed the way academics are approached on all levels. Now, it’s easier to communicate across borders and create more impactful research, but the scholar’s reputation relies on quantitative metrics that are poured into a formula and measured to come up with a final product that is, by no means, consistent and complete, but is as free from bias as possible. One of the ingredients used to measure this reputation is the citation count of an academic’s articles. However, when applying this metric to determine scholarly impact and reputation, it’s necessary to understand the advantages and disadvantages behind measuring citation counts.

What Determines Impact?

How do you pin down a completely subjective idea like impact and make it unbiased and quantitative? That is the challenge the landscape of academia is focusing on with the Digital Era’s evolution towards Big Data and altmetrics. As science moves forward, though, these metrics are constantly changing and shifting, too. It’s all in the name of progress, but that doesn’t help a scholar who understands that their entire reputation may be based on an outdated formula.

Impact, in broad terms, is measured by how a publication has shaped the field of research it was in. The ideas the scholar proposed, theories it generated, or outcomes it discovered were to have played a major role on the future of the subject at hand. Metrics like the h-index and journal impact factor (JIF) are used to attempt to place a quantitative number on a qualitative idea in order to apply a reputational value to the author, article, and journal publishing the works. The higher the value to the community, the more impactful the final results for those involved in the research. The problem, though, is that so much rides on the scholar’s reputation, like future research funding sources, career opportunities, revenue for the publishing company, and national or global recognition. Because of these important distinctions, some scholars and publishing companies have taken to manipulating metrics where they can.

The Pros and Cons of Citations

Citation counts, although they can be manipulated, do have an important purpose in the field of measuring impact. They’re a great way for scholars to find out who is citing their work and what it is being used for. Publishing companies and researchers can compare citation counts within a focused subject area or within a journal to determine relevance. However, citation counts don’t look at things like quality. An article could just as easily be cited as a non-example as an example!

Citations also vary depending on the subject area. This behavior should be taken into account when a citation count is being used to determine impact. Elements such as books versus journals or conference papers could make a difference in how often an article is cited.

Another con of citation counts as a form of measurement is that indexing and abstracting services don’t show the universal picture. They only count the citations that are in their database and offer comparisons of works within their available sources. It’s possible to get duplicates, too, making this another disadvantage of citations.

When a service takes these potential obstacles into account and gives an accurate citation count, though, this can be beneficial to scholars who want to see how their work is progressing over time.

Improve Your Reputation and Self-Reflection With Impactio

Citation indicators, including JIF and the h-index, may be continually evolving, but the idea behind them is consistent. They play a huge role in the determination of your scholarly impact, so as a scholar, part of your job is to watch these citation indicators. Impactio takes the guesswork out of checking on your published articles with its report features.

When you follow your own indicators, you can use real-time numbers to improve your future work and keep an eye on any problems before they develop. The report feature in Impactio lets you see your relevant citation indicators in easy-to-understand  and adjustable breakdowns. Keep your reports up-to-date as you follow your indicators and use Impactio to maximize your reputation with professional results!

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About the author
Jason Collins- Writer
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.
Jason Collins
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.
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