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Analyzing Publications for Tenure-Track Faculty

Bibliometrics: What it is, what it isn't

Bibliometrics is a statistical analysis of written publications.  Historically used to rate/rank publications, it was a tool to help libraries make purchasing decisions.  Bibliometrics are now also used as a means to gauge a researcher's scholarly publication output and thus, as one tool in deciding retention, promotion, and tenure (RTP).  Numbers have been created to rate both publications and authors.  Be advised that there are several organizations/individuals that have created the formulas to calculate these numbers and there is no "one place" to get all the numbers available.  Also, if you plan to incorporate bibliometrics into your RTP packet, be aware that some of these numbers (e.g. Journal Impact Factor) cannot be applied evenly across disciplines.

So while bibliometrics are widely used as a means of gauging a person's publication quality, the practice remains controversial.

See the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and the European Association of Science Editors statement on inappropriate use of impact factors.

Some Definitions

Journal Impact Factor or Impact Factor: Used to gauge a journal.  Calculated by dividing the number of citations in the Journal Citation Reports year by the total number of articles published in the two previous years.

  • These figures come from publications indexed by Web of Science.
  • Journal Citation Reports also provides the following numbers for journals: Impact Factor without Journal Self-Cites, 5 Year Impact Factor, Immediacy Index, Citable Items, Cited Half Life, Citing Half Life, Eigenfactor Score, Article Influence Score, % Articles in Citable Items, Normalized Eigenfactor, Average JIF Percentile.

h-Index: Used to gauge an author.  A researcher has index h if h of his/her Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np-h) papers have no more than h citations each.

  • A h-Index of 10 means an author has published at least 10 papers that have received at least 10 citations each.
  • The intent of the h-Index is to favor researchers that publish a contiuous stream of papers which are considered high-impact. 

g-Index:  Used to gauge an author.  Given a set of articles ranked in decreasing order of the number of citations that they received, the g-Index is the unique largest number such that the top g articles received together at least g2 citations.

  • g-Index allows highly cited papers to bolster low cited papers.

Additional Methods of Citation Analysis

In addition to the metrics obtained by the tools in the column to the left, there are some additional methods of citation, or publication analysis:


  • The number of distributed copies of a magazine, journal, or newspaper.
  • This number can be an indicator of how popular or influential a particular periodical is and could be a factor to consider when preparing for tenure or annual review.
  • This term also refers to the number of times a book or item circulates in a library -- libraries can often provide this data anonymously, if it is requested.

Library Subscriptions & Holdings

  • The number of libraries that subscribe to a periodical can also be an indicator of how influential it is.
  • Libraries oftentimes implement a rigorous selection and retention process for periodicals -- owing to their increasing costs -- so the fact that a large number of libraries subscribe to a journal that you have published in may be considered significant.
  • The number of libraries that own a particular book is also a figure of note.

Amazon Sales Rankings

  • Amazon tracks sales rankings of books and certain journals and magazines.
  • This data is becoming increasingly important to publishers -- particularly when they are considering resigning an author or making an offer to a previously published author.
  • So these are numbers certainly worth noting in your tenure or annual review document.
  • For an explanation of Amazon Sales Rankings, please see: Rampant Books or Foner Books

Rejection Rate/Acceptance Rate

  • A ratio of articles submitted and not published to total submitted articles in a year (rejection rate) or a ratio of published articles to total submitted articles in a year (acceptance rate).
  • This is usually limited to periodicals that require some sort of peer-review process.
  • The more rigorous or competitive, and thus more respected, journals in a field will have high rejection rates or low acceptance rates.
  • This concept is not applicable to books or book chapters.

And for further discussion...

In addition to the wealth of educational news and research that can be found on their site, the Chronicle of Higher Education provides a vibrant online community/forum for users to share stories and strategies with each other. If your topic or concern is not addressed, try posting a question of your own -- others will respond to you, oftentimes offering valuable advice. To use: -Under "This title is available electronically via", Click on the "UNCW subscription (UNCW)" link. -Click on "Forums" in the top menu. -Explore away!

Sample Tenure or Annual Review Entry

Bordwell D.
Intensified continuity: Visual style in contemporary American film 
FILM QUARTERLY 55 (3): 16-28 SPR 2002

  • Cited 2 times in Web of Science [accessed August 14, 2007]
  • Cited 9 times in Google Scholar [accessed August 14, 2007]
  • Film Quarterly lists a circulation of 4550 in Ulrich's Periodical Directory [accessed August 14, 2007]
  • 1414 libraries currently subscribe to Film Quarterly, according to WorldCat [accessed August 14, 2007]
  • Film Quarterly had a SJR value of 0.118 in 2002 in Scimago Journal and Country Rank [accessed December 6, 2016]
  • Film Quarterly has a h5-index of 8 and a h5-median of 11 in Google Scholar Metrics [accessed December 6, 2016]
  • Film Quarterly has an Sales Rank number of 2,803 [accessed August 14, 2007]
  • Film Quarterly has an acceptance rate of 15% (or a rejection rate of 85%) according to the MLA Directory of Periodicals [accessed August 14, 2007]