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Research Impact Challenge

This guide will help researchers better understand and manage their online scholarly presence

Day 8: The h-index (and other citation-based measures of impact)

Welcome to Day 8 of the Clemson Libraries Research Impact Challenge!

Yesterday we used The Metrics Toolkit to explore a wide range of approaches to talking about scholarly impact. Today we narrow our focus to indexes of scholarly research and how they can be used to analyze citation data and calculate quantitative measures of research impact. 

Let’s get started!


The guide Metrics: Understanding Your Impact, provides a clear introduction and context for citation-based research impact metrics. This guide will provide the backbone of today’s challenge.

Today's challenge: the h-index

Today’s challenge focuses on on just one metric, the h-index. Created in 2005 by physicist Jorge Hirsch, the h-index is intended to be a measure of both the productivity and the impact of an individual author. A scholar has an index of h when they have published h papers, each of which has been cited at least h times. (Sugimoto pp. 100-101, 2018). The h-index is hotly contested and known to be problematic, and yet it is commonly used and a metric you're likely to encounter without even seeking it out. This is why we've chosen it as the focus for today's challenge. 


Find your h-index:

Follow the instructions below, adapted from the U-M Research Guide on Research Impact Assessment (Health Sciences), to locate an h-index for the same author in Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. If your publications have been indexed in all three places, we recommend that you search for your own name. If not, search for a scholar whose work you have used in your research. Here's how to do it: 

Web of Science

  1. Click "Web of Science" above
  2. In the search box, click "More" and then "Author"
  3. Perform author search, then click "Create Citation Report" on the top right of the results page

Google Scholar @ Clemson

  1. Click "Google Scholar @ Clemson" above
  2. If you are searching for yourself, you can simply navigate directly to the Google Scholar profile you created last week. Your h-index will appear in the box on the right-hand side of the screen.
  3. If you are searching for a different author, once in your profile, you can click on the magnifying glass in the top right corner to search for another author's name or search by article title. In the search results page, click on the author's name to view their Google Scholar profile (your chosen author will need to have a public Google Scholar profile in order for you to view their Google Scholar h-index).

Reflect on what you find: 

  • Does the h-index stay the same or vary across these databases? If the score changes, can you figure out why?
  • What strengths do you see in the h-index as a measure of productivity and impact? What limitations do you see?
  • If asked to provide an h-index as part of an evaluation process, how would you proceed?

Key Takeaways: 

  • The h-index always depends upon the data source from which it was calculated. When reporting an h-index, you will always want to indicate the data source.

  • The Google Scholar h-index will often be higher than the h-index from other sources. This is because Google Scholar is more inclusive than Scopus and Web of Science, indexing many more types of material than peer-reviewed research articles. 

  • The h-index inherently favors scholars with longer careers, who have had the time both to publish more work and to accrue more citations.

  • The h-index will not adequately represent the work of scholars whose publications are not all indexed in the data source being used. 

What next? 

  • Explore further in the U-M LibGuide on Research Impact Assessment (Health Sciences) for an overview of other research impact metrics, as well as broader context for research impact evaluation (including a sneak preview of altmetrics, tomorrow’s topic, and the responsible, ethical application of research impact metrics, which we’ll address on Friday).
  • For a quick, at-a-glance reference, this poster from Elsevier Library Connect provides a user-friendly overview of key research impact measures.
  • In this video (less than 5 minutes long!), Heather Coates, digital scholarship and data librarian at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, provides a general introduction to research impact metrics and describes how such metrics may affect humanities scholars. 

Learn more: 

Prepare for the next challenge: 

Congratulations! You've completed Day 8 of the Research Impact Challenge!  Tomorrow we'll explore the emerging field of altmetrics, including tools you can use to keep up-to-date on when your work is mentioned on the web, in the media, in a syllabus, in policy, and more!