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NRF Rating Preparation: Article Impact

This guide provides information and tools for measuring research impact, focusing on the use of citation metrics in NRF rating preparation

Article Impact

To determine article impact, citation counts can be used to see how many times a specific article has been cited by others.

Cited reference searching allows you to find articles that have been cited by previously published research.

Some databases index each citation listed in a bibliography or reference list, therefore it is possible to search the cited references.

Citation analysis is facilitated by citation resources and refers to the examination of the frequency and pattern of citations or references in scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles and books. Citation analysis uses citations in scholarly works to establish links to other works, or other researchers.  Research patterns and trends can thus be identified, as well as the currency of research.  The frequency with which a work is cited is usually considered a measure of its importance in the literature of the field.

Citation counts can be based on the following assumptions:

  • if an article was cited by an author, it implies the document was used

  • the impact or significance of the article is reflected by the citation

  • it is implied that the references are derived from the best literature on the topic

  • that the content of the articles being cited is related to the topic of the article.

    Examples of Citation Resources are:


Altmetrics is the study and use of scholarly impact measures based on activity in online tools and environments. The term has also been used to describe the metrics themselves.  Altmetrics is in most cases a subset of both scientometrics and webometrics; it is a subset of the latter that focuses more narrowly on scholarly influence as measured in online tools and environments, rather than on the Web more generally.

The term “altmetrics” or alternative metrics was coined by Priem 

NISO defines Altmetrics as “metrics that are alternative to the established citation counts and usage statistics – and/or metrics about alternative research outputs, as opposed to journal articles”.

Digital Scholarship has released the Altmetrics Bibliography, which includes over 50 selected English-language articles and technical reports that are useful in understanding altmetrics.

The PLoS database developed a taxonomy for categorization/classification of Altmetrics:

(1) viewed: online actions regarding the access of an article;

(2) saved: online actions regarding the storage of an article on online reference managers, providing sharing among researchers and better organizing;

(3) discussed: online discussions of an article content (tweets, forum discussions or comments regarding an article);

(4) recommended: online actions that formally endorse an article;

(5) cited: citations of an article on scientific journals.