What Is the Role of Journal Impact Factor and its Peers?


The journal impact factor (JIF) measures the number of times an average article, published in the previous two years in a particular science journal, was cited in a given year. This scientometric index is also known as the impact factor (IF). Its primary purpose is to show the relative importance of a journal within its respective field. Consequently, high impact factor journals are usually considered more prestigious than lower-impact journals. It’s important to understand that the impact factor doesn’t measure the impact of individual articles but that of a journal.

Impact Factor Journals are ranked by a wide range of metrics
Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

How Can You Measure Your Paper’s Impact?

The relevance and success of a research project is determined by the impact it makes on the development of worldwide science. This impact can be measured by the number of times other researchers quote the reporting article. Naturally, those journals that publish more papers of higher impact are considered more prestigious.

Ways of Measuring a Journal’s Impact

When doing academic research, journals with a higher impact factor are more likely to be reliable sources. That’s why it’s essential to understand how exactly the impact factor of a journal is measured and what other main metrics are used.

Whether you need resources for your paper or are looking for scientific information, you want to make sure your sources are reputable. For choosing the best cited journal, remember that the higher the citation rates of an article published in that journal, the higher the journal rankings. Also, journal metrics are important tools for comparing journals in a specific subject category.

The various databases all use their own metrics to measure a journal’s impact and resulting reputation.

Impact Factor and Its Reliability

The most well-known journal metric is the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), used by Web of Science. The calculation of the Journal Impact Factor covers a two-year period. It is a ratio of two integers. First it is counted how many times the articles, published in this two-year period in a journal, were cited in the subsequent year. Then this number is divided by the number of citable articles published in that two-year period. Precisely, the JIF e.g. in 2020 is the quotient

(2020 cites of articles published in 2018-19)/(citable articles published in 2018-19).

A variant – the so-called 5 Year Impact factor – is computed analogously referring to a five-year period.

Although this factor can be computed for any journal, only the values in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) – published annually by Clarivate Analytics on the Web of Science platform – are accepted as official. Therefore, even being listed among the ca. 10 000 journals in JCR – that is, “having an impact factor” – makes a journal more prestigious.

There is an ongoing debate regarding the reliability of the Journal Impact Factor. A journal with a high impact rate might contain a single article that was cited thousands of times and ten articles that were mentioned only a couple of times. Also, the impact factors are mostly determined by sheer technicalities that don’t prove real journal quality. Most journal impact factors depend heavily on their research field. Journals covering large research areas that use many references per article are likely to have high impact factors.


The h-index has been originally an author-level metric that quantifies a writer’s scientific research output. This index measures the scientific productivity and impact of a scientist at the same time. It is defined as the largest number for which it is true that the author has so many papers that have been cited by so many times. For example, if an author’s h-index is 10, then at least 10 of his works have been cited at least 10 times. However, his 11th most cited paper has less than 11 citations (otherwise the h-index would be 11). An author with h-index above 20 can be regarded as a renown world-wide expert.

The h-index is often computed for journals as well; in this case it is the largest number for which it is true that the journal has published so many papers that have been cited by so many times. Obviously, older journals tend to have higher h-index.

Cite Score

Scopus’ CiteScore measures a specific journal’s citation impact. It’s completely free to use, transparent, and calculates metrics using Scopus data. It has more than 24,000 ranked titles covering 300+ disciplines. With the CiteScore Tracker, you can monitor a given journal’s performance throughout the year.

SCImago Journal Rank

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) in Scopus’ and SCImago’s databases operates on the principle that “not all citations are created equal.” With these metrics, a specific journal’s subject, quality, and reputation directly affect the value of its citations. This approach helps normalize differences in citation practices across different subject fields. It leaves no space for manipulation: an author can raise their SJR rankings by publishing in more reputable journals.

Source Normalized Impact per Paper

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) – also used by Scopus – measures the impact of a citation by analysing them according to the overall citation number in a particular subject field. Therefore, a single citation’s impact will be higher in subject fields where citations are less likely. Compared to JIF, this metric allows more accurate comparisons between fields for a specific citation. It’s because SNIP tends to normalize differences in citation behaviors across fields. Thanks to SNIP, you can also compare journals in a specific field.

Citation Analysis

The main purpose of the citation analysis is to count the number of times other people mention a specific article in their publications. This analysis involves citation counts to measure journal’s, a particular author’s, or a publication’s impact. However, there is no single tool that can collect all publications along with their references up to this day. That’s why you need to look across multiple databases if you want to perform a thorough citation analysis of an author or publication. The most common resources for citation analysis include Web of Science (available only for subscribers), Scopus (which has a free preview but whose full access is limited to subscribers) Google Scholar and Scimago (which are freely available to anyone).

Web of Science (WoS) has a database of over 12,000 journals in science, technology, art & humanities, and social sciences. It is updated weekly and comprises several citation indexes: science citation index, with the most extensive collection of over 8,500 journals. It’s followed by social sciences, arts, and book citation indexes. It contains Journal Citation Reports as a part. Its most widely used data are (classical 2 Year and 5 Year) Impact Factors, Immediacy Index, Eigenfactor Score, Article Influence Score. It also publishes author level h-index.

Scopus has over 21,000 active journals that are updated daily. It covers a larger number of journals compared to the World of Science and has a downloadable reference list. Its weaknesses are limited citation tracking that only exists for articles written after 1996. Scopus presents its own data like the SciteCore, SCImago Journal Rank and SNIP.

Finally, Google Scholar has the highest number of journals and publication types in all disciplines. This is due to the fact that it indexes non-traditional sources, unlike WoS and Scopus.

WoS, Scopus, and Google Scholar all provide citation counts for their indexed articles.

SCImago is a portal that collects data from the Scopus database. It does not provide article level citation counts only various data on the journal level, like the journal’s h-index and their own SCImago Journal Rank. Ranking lists of journals are presented in various scientific fields. Belonging to a given quartile of this list – being Q1, Q2, Q3 or Q4 – is an often-used parameter of journals.


Altmetrics is the quality and quantity attention measure a scientific paper receives on social media and through citations and article downloads. It is a non-traditional metric type that complements traditional metrics (such as impact factors and h-index) with additional data.

AKJournal’s Guidelines for Authors

On the AKJournals.com website, you can find journal rankings for all published journals. Simply head over to the “Browse Titles” tab from the main menu and search for a journal. When you open it, look for the “Metrics” section in the right-hand menu. Depending on the journal, you’ll find WoS, Scimago, Scopus, or other journal rankings to help you choose the best resources for your paper. Most of the journals on our website have metrics information, but not all of them have an Impact Factor in the sense of being listed in Clarivate’s Journal Citation Reports.