Skip to Main Content
Research Guides

Nuts & Bolts of Scholarly Publishing: Evaluating Journals: Impact

All you need to get started selecting journals for publication and reviewing author's agreements

Journal Impact

How does the journal impact the scholarly community and other audiences?

Citation-based impact metrics

Citation-based measures typically use algorithms that calculate the number of times, on average, an article in the journal has been cited over during a recent time frame. The Journal Impact Factor, found in InCites Journal Citation Reports, is probably the best known:

Other measures have been developed to address some of the concerns with the Journal Impact Factor. This non-exhaustive list describes some of these measures and how they differ from the Journal Impact Factor:


Curious about critiques of journal impact factors? Read on!

Bornmann, Lutz, and Werner Marx. 2016. “The Journal Impact Factor and Alternative Metrics.” EMBO Reports 17 (8): 1094.

Scully, C, and H Lodge. 2005. “Impact Factors and Their Significance; Overrated or Misused?” British Dental Journal 198 (April): 391.


Infographic displaying advantages of publishing work openly: more exposure, practitioners can apply findings, higher citation rates, research can influence policy, public can access findings, compliance with grant rules, taxpayers get value for money, researchers in developing countries can access work.

Image CC-BY Danny Kingsley and Sarah Brown


“Citations are not the only way to represent the impact of a research article. A few alternative indicators have been the subjects of webometrics and bibliometrics research for years, including download counts and mentions in patents. However, as scholarly communication moves increasingly online, more indicators have become available: how many times an article has been bookmarked, blogged about, cited in Wikipedia and so on. These metrics can be considered altmetrics – alternative metrics of impact.” (Piwowar 2013)

While altmetrics are generally author or article-level measures, investigating altmetrics of articles in a journal can tell you about the level of engagement that journal receives from the public and policy community. Some article records will display links to these metrics (often from Altmetric or Plum Analytics). Or try these tools: 

Open Access

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. [...] OA journals perform peer review and then make the approved contents freely available to the world.” (Suber 2004)

Publishing your work through an open access venue can mean making it accessible to many more people -- including the public, policymakers, and even scholars at institutions that may not have access to certain subscription journals. Keep this in mind when considering what kind of impact you want your work to have, and how your choice of publication venue can effect that.

Learn More



This guide and the accompanying workshop materials were created by Rochelle Lundy JD and Julia Hon, University of Washington iSchool class of 2018.