Skip to Main Content

Bibliometrics: What are bibliometrics?

What are bibliometrics?

Bibliometrics is a term used to describe statistics that measure usage of research publications based on citation counts and patterns. Data can be collected at the level of an article, a journal title, or at the level of an author.

This guide outlines the main bibliometric measures that are available, their limitations, and how to use bibliometrics in a responsible way. 

Using Bibliometrics

Bibliometrics can be used to evaluate the influence of an individual research output, such as a journal article, or a collection of research outputs, such as all works by a particular author, research group or institution.

They can be used to provide insight into academic publications for individual researchers, for research groups, or at an institutional level.

Some examples of what bibliometrics are used for include:

  • Analysing research outputs
  • Providing evidence of the readership impact of your research
  • Finding new and emerging areas of research
  • Identifying potential research collaborators
  • Identifying suitable sources in which to publish.


Being aware of the limitations

There are many factors that affect citations to publications. When using bibliometric data, you should:

  • Be aware of the strengths and limitations of particular bibliometric measures
  • Understand how citation patterns differ between different disciplines
  • Recognise how a researcher's profile including career stage, gender, language, race and other protected characteristics can impact citations to their publications.

High citations do not directly correlate to high quality, and a portfolio of metrics, including both quantitative and qualitative should always be used in research evaluation.

Some of the key limitations of bibliometrics relate to: 

  • Differences in publication cycle and types of publication
  • Disciplinary variation
  • Database content
  • Bias and discrepancies

The document below provides further explanation about limitations

Using Bibliometrics responsibly and fairly