When doing research, you may want to find resources that are regarded as particularly important in your field. Some works are published and appear not to have any impact. Other works are cited numerous times, or discussed and debated in journals for decades. While there is no one way to tell whether a resource is important, here are points of views to consider.
- How many times the article has been cited?
- Search for the title in Web of Science or Google Scholar. Look for "Times Cited" in Web of Science, or "Cited By" counts in Google Scholar.
- Look at the publication year of the article and compare it to other works on the subject. A newer article obviously will not have as many citations because it takes time for scholars to evaluate a source and cite it in their subsequent published works. Also, disciplines are not the same in how much they cite other works, so what might seem like few citations in one field could be a lot in another. Comparing it to works on a similar topic and of a similar age will give you a general picture.
- How important is the journal? The importance of the journal in which an article is published is often used as a way to judge the importance of the article.
- Try not to base your judgment of the article solely on this metric. An article published in a journal considered important in a field might be read by more people and thus has a broader chance to have more impact, but this is not guaranteed. An article can also become important even if it is published in a journal that is not considered important. See below for more information about evaluating journals.
- Who is the publisher? Scholarly publishers like university presses are selective about the works they publish. However, just because a work is of high quality does not mean it necessarily has had an impact on its field.
- Has it been reviewed by a scholarly publication? Search for the title of the book in databases that are pertinent to research in your field (for example, JSTOR for the social sciences and humanities, Science Direct for the sciences), to see if there are reviews of the work. You can also find book reviews in Library Search by searching for the title of the book and filtering to “Reviews.” Read the reviews and check for relevance.
- How many times the book has been cited?
- Search for the title in Web of Science or Google Scholar. Look for "Times Cited" in Web of Science, or "Cited By" counts in Google Scholar. If a book has been cited a significant number of times, it has had an impact in the field.
- To determine how many citations are significant, you need to look at the publication year of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. A new book obviously will not have as many citations because it takes time for scholars to evaluate a source and then publish their subsequent works. Comparing it to works on a similar topicand of a comparable age will give you a clearer view.
- Ask your professors and other scholars in your field which journals they respect and would recommend you use for your research.
- Pay attention to your class readings. Which journals have published the supplemental or recommended readings that are listed in your course syllabi?
- Notice journals whose titles appear repeatedly in your research. This could indicate that these journals are influential.
- Ask your subject librarian for a recommendation. Librarians are often familiar with the scholarly journals in their fields and can help you access a journal.
- Use a scholarly journal metric to get a general overview of a journal's ranking within a discipline. Metrics are based on the average citations a journal receives per article.
- Some scholars criticize these metrics because too much value is often placed on them. The University of Nevada, Reno Libraries recommend using them only in conjunction with the other suggested steps.
- Some journal metrics include the Journal Impact Factor (you will need to sign in with your NetID if not on campus), SCImago's Journal Rank indicator and Eigenfactor.
- You will notice that because of differences in each of their methodologies, these journal metrics rank journals differently from each other. For more information on journal metrics, see the Scholarly Metrics and Altmetrics page.