Altmetrics: A 21st-Century Solution to Determining Research Quality

By Konkiel, Stacy | Online Searcher, July-August 2013 | Go to article overview

Altmetrics: A 21st-Century Solution to Determining Research Quality


Konkiel, Stacy, Online Searcher


The past decade saw an exponential rise in the number of academic articles published annually. At the same time, librarians and academics began to question traditional measures of research quality, such as the journal impact factor and citation counts, for being unreliable and slow to accumulate. Although in the past these measures have helped librarians filter for quality content, serving as an indication of the value of journal titles, they show weakness when applied to the rapidly evolving scholarly publication marketplace now in place. Neither can be applied easily to nontraditional scholarly outputs such as working papers, technical reports, datasets, and conference presentations.

The increase in open access (OA) publications makes research easier to access than ever before. Mega-journals such as PLoS ONE and Sage Open publish more articles in a day than some journals do in a year. The sheer volume of available scholarship is enough to make your head spin.

Given these challenges, how can we librarians help people access what they seek while at the same time make our own jobs easier as we comb through the ever-rising sands of available scholarship?

Enter altmetrics, a new approach to determining the quality and popularity of research more quickly than ever before. To understand altmetrics, start with the Altmetrics Manifesto (altmet rics.org/manifesto), which explains how value can be assessed by tallying online shares, saves, reviews, adaptations, and social media usage related to research outputs of all kinds--not only traditional publications but also gray literature, digital scholarship, research blogs, datasets, and other modes of scholarly communication. When paired with usage statistics (downloads and page views) and traditional measures of impact (journal impact factors and citation counts), they can be an excellent way to help sift through high-quality and popular search results to zero in on what patrons seek.

This article will cover the advantages and disadvantages of both new and traditional research metrics with an aim to help you understand how you can use them to filter out the noise to better find what you seek. I'll start with the traditional measures, and then move on to alternatives.

JOURNAL IMPACT FACTOR

ISI (now Thomson Reuters) created the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) in the 1960s as a shorthand measure of quality to allow scholars to understand the value of content published in a journal relative to other journals in a particular field. It represents the average number of times that an article published in a particular journal has been cited within the previous 2 years.

For many years, the JIF was the best, most objective tool available to determine the prestige of a journal. It allowed librarians to understand who the most authoritative publishers were in fields where they might not have domain knowledge. Librarians could also use it to teach the concepts related to information evaluation during instruction sessions to undergraduates. Junior faculty used it to understand where to publish in order to advance their careers. The JIF was (and is) a powerful tool when used correctly.

However, since the 1980s many have questioned the supremacy of JIFs as the de facto measure of research quality on two fronts--gaming and granularity. Over the years, reports have surfaced of editorial boards requiring authors to cite articles previously published in their journal in order to inflate the total number of citations received, thereby increasing their JIFs. Other critics have pointed out that JIFs are only an approximation of quality and that true measures of an article's quality should be determined by an article-level metric such as a citation count.

CITATION COUNTS

Citation counts are the total number of citations an article receives, usually tracked by a service such as ISI's Web of Science or Scopus. Generally speaking, the higher the number of citations, the greater the perception of quality for that article. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Altmetrics: A 21st-Century Solution to Determining Research Quality
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.