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Syracuse University Libraries

Research Metrics: Journal-level Metrics

Helping the researcher to navigate metrics

Journal-level Metrics & Sources

Journal-level metrics measure the aggregate impact or influence that a journal has on its community or discipline. This measurement may vary depending on the source. Examples of journal metrics include:

  • Impact Factor (Web of Science)
  • Journal Rank in a Category
  • Acceptance Rate
  • h-index & CiteScore (Scopus)

Note on Citation Analysis

Citation analysis is a quantifiable measure of academic output. Users need to be aware of the limitations and incongruities of citation metrics. Library subscription databases and Google Scholar do not correct errors in citing papers. This means that one paper may be cited many different ways and appear as separate entries in these tools. Also, author and institutional naming inconsistencies complicate these analyses. Comparisons between these tools should be avoided. The databases use different sources to generate data and some are more comprehensive than others.


A Journal's Impact Factor (JIF) is one of the most well-known journal-level metrics that helps gauge journal performance. To find a JIF, you will need access to a Web of Science  product called the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), an annual compendium of citation data that provides a systematic and objective means to assess influence and impact at the journal and category levels. It reports on the citation impact of a defined set of journals at a given moment in time. Researchers should use the journal metric that corresponds to their article's publication year.

To receive a JIF, a journal must be included in the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) of the Web of Science. Not all journals are indexed in these two sources, since Web of Science only scopes a defined set of journals. A newer journal may appear in the JCR after its first full year of publication. However, please note that the new journal's impact factor will be calculated from the journal's first year of established source data and two prior years of null or zero source data. An accurate impact factor requires three complete years of known source data. JIFs are are available in yearly and 5-year calculations.

Source: Clarivate Analytics. (2017). Journal Citation Reports: A Primer on the JCR and Journal Impact Factor. Retrieved from

How Yearly JIF and 5-Year JIF are Calculated


Yearly JIF

2017 Yearly Journal Impact Factor formula:

263 (items published in 2015) + 149 (items published in 2016) = 412

52 (number of citable items in 2015) + 56 (number of citable items in 2016) = 108

Calculation: 412 (items published in 2015 and 2016) / 108 (citable items in 2015 and 2016) = 3.815

visual of above calculation

Note that citable items are "... those identified in the Web of Science as an article, review or proceedings paper and are considered the substantive articles that contribute to the body of scholarship in a particular research field and those most likely to be cited by other articles."


5-Year JIF

A 5-Year Journal Impact Factor shows the long-term citation trend for a journal. This is calculated differently from the yearly JIF, so it is not simply an average of the Impact Factors in the time period. A base of five years may be more appropriate for journals in certain fields because the body of citations may not be large enough to make reasonable comparisons, publication schedules may be consistently late, or it may take longer than two years to disseminate and respond to published works. It can also be a more accurate measure in some fields whose citation patterns tend not to concentrate as much on the most recent literature.

2017 5-Year Journal Impact Factor formula:

532 (cites in 2017 to items published in 2012) + 240 (cites in 2017 to items published in 2013) + 371 (cites in 2017 to items published in 2014) + 263 (cites in 2017 to items published in 2015) + 149 (cites in 2017 to items published in 2016) = 1555

44 (number of items published in 2012) + 41 (number of items published in 2013) + 49 (number of items published in 2014) + 52 (number of items published in 2015) + 56 (number of items published in 2016) = 242

Calculation: 1555 (cites to recent items) / 242 (number of recent items) = 6.426

visual of above citation breakdowns and calculation

Faculty value and/or rank the journals in their field of study. Some disciplines are interdisciplinary and fall into several different category rankings, so a researcher in a new discipline, such as food studies, might look to publish in highly ranked journals in geography and anthropology, depending on the subject area of research they wish to publish. There are a few tools that can help identify where one can publish work. Sometimes these are identified before research is conducted, so as to adhere to journal publishing requirements, and sometimes this is done after the fact, depending on the nature of the research. To identify journal rankings, researchers might rely on other faculty in their field, available library resources, or freely available tools on the web.

Library Resources

Using Scopus, locate the CiteScore ranking for a particular journal by following these directions:

  • once in Scopus, click on "Sources" from the top navigation bar
  • enter a journal title (if it does not populate, be sure to check spelling. If the spelling is correct, the title may not be indexed by Scopus)
  • click on the journal title
  • under the journal information, click on the tab titled "CiteScore rank & trend"

Using Web of Science, locate a journal's rank in category by following these steps:

  • in the search box, type in the name of the journal title and, in the adjacent field, choose "publication name" and click search
  • from the list of results, click on the first journal title, in this case "Journal of Peasant Studies"
  • the pop up window will tell you the rank of this journal title in each of the research domains in which it resides, for example the "Journal of Peasant Studies" resides in two domains. In research domain Anthropology, it ranks 1/90. In research domain Development Studies, it ranks 1/41.

illustration of above statement

Open Access Web Tools

A journal’s acceptance rate can give you an idea of its status and rigor. All other things being equal, it is generally better to publish in a journal with a low acceptance rate (indicating a high level of selectivity and rigor).

Journals typically do not publish their acceptance rates on their web sites, but you can find acceptance rates for many journals using the resources listed on this page. Authors can also contact the publisher, if the acceptance rate is not publicly available.

A journal’s acceptance rate should not be used by itself to determine a journal’s status or prestige. Narrowly focused “specialty” journals often have relatively high acceptance rates because far fewer authors submit to them, but for some authors and some topics, they may be the most suitable publication venue. For more information, see How to interpret journal acceptance rates.

Reproduced with minor modifications with permission from University of Oklahoma Libraries

h-indexes are metrics available at the journal-level and author-level. h indicates that a researcher or journal has published h articles that have been cited h or more times. For more information regarding h-index at the author level, view the Author-level Metrics tab.

Web of Science h index

To find the h index:
  • enter journal title (e.g. "organization studies") and select "Publication Name" from the drop-down menu
  • set the desired publication window using the Timespan limit and select Search
  • check that the target title is the only journal listed under Refine Results > Source Titles in the left-hand side column - if not, tick the box next to the target title and Refine
  • select "Create Citation Report" (located near the top-right side of screen)
  • h-index appears according to the time-span selected

Google Scholar h-5 index

Google Scholar now tracks journal h-index based on citations from all publications that are indexed in Google Scholar. Google Scholar reports the "h5-index" as the h-index calculated using the most recent five years of a journal's publication history. Users can search for metrics on a specific title or view the top-rated journals in a certain language or subject area.

To find the h5-index:
  • click "Metrics" under the menu "hamburger" (series of horizontal lines) at the top left of the page
  • view subject category data by clicking a broad subject category at the left, e.g., "Social Sciences"
  • click "Subcategories" (the top 20 journals in each subcategory are listed) and make a selection
  • for detailed information on a single journal on the list, click the h5 number for a list of the individual papers that comprise the h-index, as well as the journal's position within its subject category or categories
  • you may also search for a specific journal at the top of the page and find its h-index, although category ranking is not provided for journals outside the top 20
    • If the journal you seek does not appear:
      • it may not be indexed by Google Scholar
      • records for the journal may be present in Google Scholar, but the h-index may not have been automatically calculated (e.g., where there are fewer than a hundred articles in the five-year period)

Google Scholar generally finds more citing articles than Web of Science because these two sources search different bodies of literature. This may explain why Google Scholar's h-indexes are usually higher. Word of caution: do not compare two journals' metrics unless you are generating the same data for each using the same sources (Google Scholar, Web Of Science, etc).

Scopus - CiteScore Metrics

To calculate CiteScore:

CiteScore 2019 counts the citations received in 2016-2019 to articles, reviews, conference papers, book chapters and data papers published in 2016-2019, and divides this by the number of publications published in 2016-2019. Want to learn more? Visit Citescore FAQ