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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 26 January 2018


See also Altmetrics | Bibliographic citation software | Citation analysis | Eugene Garfield | ImpactStory | InCites research analytics | Scopus vs. Web of Science | Webometrics

"...the word "bibliometrics" first appeared in print in 1969 in Alan Pritchard's article, "Statistical bibliography or bibliometrics?" in the December issue of J Documentation..." — Hertzel, 2003

Bibliometrics, as a discipline, dates back to the mid-20th century and the work of Eugene Garfield. The term bibliometrics refers to the measurement and aggregation of publishing and citation data patterns which aim to quantify the impact of scholarly activities and patterns of authorship, publication, and the use of literature (reads, downloads, citations, etc.). Compared to other evaluation methods, bibliometrics offers important advantages and can be used to generate quantitative indicators of collaboration and interdisciplinarity. As analytical tools improve, they can be used to develop indicators of ‘quality’ and ‘excellence’. These analyses are supported by indicators of varying complexity which have been developed over the last few years. Robust bibliometric analysis requires an understanding of the strengths and limitations of the tools that accomplish data tracking in a digital world. A new field related to bibliometrics is altmetrics (see also webometrics) which aims to examine new metrics of the social web. Bibliometrics is not the only term used to refer to the quantitative study of document-related usage and its processes. Informetrics and librametry (coined by Ranganathan, 1948) have also been used. Scientometrics, technometrics, sociometrics and econometrics are fields that overlap with bibliometrics. Webometrics and cybermetrics are new areas that focus on the communication of information online. Historically, bibliometrics was called “statistical bibliography”. Citation analysis, a term used by Eugene Garfield, is also a type of citation indexing.

According to the chief engineer at Google scholar, there is a growing impact of non-elite journals (traditionally, those that have not been cited much) in the Internet age, and are being cited more due to the available of information on the web.


  • Bibliometrics: belongs to research in the overlapping but separate areas of "library and information science" (LIS). Its purpose is to index citations in scholarly fields. In the sciences, bibliometrics is also referred to as scientometrics. Simply, bibliometrics is the quantitative analysis of bodies of literature (such as journal articles, monographs and patents) and their references: citations, and co-citations. Using quantitative analysis and statistics to discern patterns of publication in the sciences is a relatively new area. The purpose of bibliometrics is to quantify journal impact relative to other journals in a similar field. Researchers use metrics to determine author influence and identify relationships between two or more authors. A common way to do this research is to use the Social Science Citation Index, the Science Citation Index and/or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index on Thomson's Web of Science (WoS) or the Web of Knowledge. Even though bibliometric research can be done on Google scholar via the cited-by feature, GS is widely-criticized as having inflated citations counts. Peter Jacso calls into question its reliability for this kind of work. Bibliometric analysis of literature allows the study of the foundations of a discipline and (as a robust quantitative approach) augments the findings of more subjective literature reviews. When applied to patent data, this analysis allows the investigation of firm and inventor networks by describing the linkages that are evident in citation to other individuals, firms and technologies. Bibliometrics can be extended to illustrate the most influential citations, how they are related, how strong their relationships are, and how far removed from, or central to, other groupings they are. In other words, the relationships inherent in the intellectual structure of a field or patent space can be rendered graphically. Co-citation studies can reveal what topics, themes, and research methods are central, or peripheral, to a field, and how they have changed over time.
  • Research assessment and analytics: the profession of librarianship is constantly evolving. As the information landscape changes, librarians of all stripes must adapt and expand the range of services provided to ensure we remain relevant and valuable to our user communities. One recent change in this regard is the growing demand for bibliometric support as well as research assessment and analytics at research institutions. These analytics-based activities (such as altmetrics) seek to understand who produces what research at any given institution, who they collaborate with to produce this knowledge, what exactly their research is about, and what impacts their research has in fields, and generally within the academy. As a response, librarians at academic institutions offer research assessment services. New roles are available to academic librarians in analyzing research within their organizations and to facilitate communication among those who want to provide aspects of research assessment services in their liaison work. The need for research assessment services must be determined in conjunction with librarians and information professionals who already provide these services, and opportunities should be identified to expand these services at other institutions.

Use of bibliographic information in research

Powell and Connaway (2004) suggest the use of bibliographic information in research can be outlined as follows:

  1. Improving the bibliographic control of a literature
  2. Identifying a core literature, especially in the journal literature
  3. Classifying a literature
  4. Tracing the spread of ideas within and a growth of a literature
  5. Designing more economic information systems and networks
  6. Improving the efficiency of information handling services
  7. Predicting publishing trends
  8. Describing patterns of book use by patrons

Bibliometrics and scientometrics

Bibliometrics and scientometrics are two closely-related fields that aim to measure scientific publications and science in general. A lot of the research that falls under this topic involves citation analysis, or examining how scholars cite one another in publications. Author citation data can show a lot about scholar networks and scholarly communication, linkages between scholars, and the development of areas of knowledge over time. Modern scientometrics is based on the work of Derek J de Solla Price and Eugene Garfield.

The field of scientometrics – the science of measuring and analyzing science – took off in 1947 when mathematician Derek J. de Solla Price was asked to store a complete set of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society temporarily in his house. He stacked them in order and he noticed that the height of the stacks fit an exponential curve. Price started to analyze all sorts of other kinds of scientific data and concluded in 1960 that scientific knowledge had been growing steadily at a rate of 4.7 percent annually since the 17th century. The upshot was that scientific data was doubling every 15 years.

As with other scientific approaches, scientometrics and bibliometrics have their own limitations. Recently, a criticism was voiced pointing toward certain deficiencies of the journal impact factor (JIF) calculation process, based on the Web of Science such as: journal citation distributions may be highly skewed towards established journals; journal impact factor properties are field-specific and can be easily manipulated by editors, or even by changing the editorial policies; this makes the entire process essentially nontransparent. Regarding the more objective journal metrics, there is a growing view that for greater accuracy it must be supplemented with an article-level metrics and peer-review. Thomson Reuters replied to criticism in general terms by stating that "no one metric can fully capture the complex contributions scholars make to their disciplines, and many forms of scholarly achievement should be considered."

Bibliometrics for the academic unit

Bibliometrics, Altmetrics, & the Question of Research Impact for health librarians


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