Journal impact measures in bibliometric research

Wolfgang Glänzel, Henk F. Moed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

348 Citations (Scopus)


The Impact Factor introduced by Eugene Garfield is a fundamental citation-based measure for significance and performance of scientific journals. It is perhaps the most popular bibliometric product used in bibliometrics itself, as well as outside the scientific community. First, a concise review of the background and history of the ISI impact factor and the basic ideas underlying it are given. A cross-citation matrix is used to visualise the construction of the Impact Factor and several related journal citation measures. Both strengths and flaws of the impact factor are discussed. Several attempts made by different authors to introduce more sophisticated journal citation measures and the reasons why many indicators aiming at a correction of methodological limitations of the Impact Factor were not successful are described. The next section is devoted to the analysis of basic technical and methodological aspects. In this context, the most important sources of possible biases and distortions for calculation and use of journal citation measures are studied. Thereafter, main characteristics of application contexts are summarised. The last section is concerned with questions of statistical reliability of journal citation measures. It is shown that in contrast to a common misbelief statistical methods can be applied to discrete 'skewed' distributions, and that the statistical reliability of these statistics can be used as a basis for application of journal impact measures in comparative analyses. Finally, the question of sufficiency or insufficiency of a single, howsoever complex measure for characterising the citation impact of scientific journals is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-193
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences

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