Why You Should Consider Impact Factors When Choosing a Journal

By Samhar Almomani on Dec 22, 2022
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A journal impact factor is often used as a way to determine the importance of a journal in its field of expertise. This impact factor metric is a measure of the frequency that an average article in a journal has been cited in a single year. By determining how many times the journal’s articles have been cited, an impact factor showcases the weight the journal holds in that area. Journal impact factors do not generally apply to individual articles, but they are only used for a single journal or a group of journals. Understanding a journal’s impact factor is essential for authors and scholars that plan on publishing their work (University of Illinois Chicago, 2022).

There are tools that researchers can use to find a journal’s impact factor and make their editorial decisions based on that metric. Some tools that can help researchers find the impact factor of a journal or group of journals include the Journal Citation Reports, Eigenfactor and SCimago Journal & Country Rank (University of Washington, 2022).

(Read more about two- and five- year impact factors here!)

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The Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is a toolkit for scholars that provides tools for ranking, evaluating and accordingly categorizing different journals in their respective fields. Using these tools, JCR is able to compare between different journals in the same field, making it easier for scholars to make decisions regarding the journal they want to publish with. They give scholars a journal’s impact factor and compare that journal with similar journals. For example, if a journal has a journal impact factor of 3.013, that means that on average, each of the journal’s articles in that year were cited 3.013 times. If another journal has an impact factor of 5.07, this would mean that the journal has a higher number of citations per article on average when compared to the former journal. This helps inform scholars on which journal to publish with (University of Washington, 2022).

Eigenfactor is a different metric, as it ranks the journals based on the structure of the whole network, as opposed to focusing on local citation information. Eigenfactor uses that information to determine the importance of the journals listed. The journals are then ranked according to the number of incoming citations that the journal receives. Citations from journals that are ranked highly are weighted to be more influential in its contribution to the Eigenfactor, when compared to other lower-ranked journals. An Eigenfactor score is a measure of the value of the journal based on a specific year. On the other hand, the article influence score is a measurement of a journal’s prestige that is based on a per article citation basis. This, in a way, is similar to the impact factor (University of Washington, 2022).

The Eigenfactor also measures the journal’s price and citation influence. There is a cost-effectiveness category that bases the ordering of the journals on the basis of value of the dollar they provide. This measure also ranks scholarly journals along with newspapers, theses, popular magazines and other sorts of media. It is more accurate in some aspects as well because it adjusts for citation differences across disciplines, which allows for a better comparison across disciplines. The calculations for Eigenfactor are received over a 5-year segment of time, as opposed to only 2 years for JCR. The Eigenfactor is also free of charge for scholars that wish to explore the website (University of Washington, 2022).

(Read more about what impact factors are here!)

Another free resource that scholars can use is SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SJR), which includes journals and country-scientific indicators that have been professionally developed from Elsevier;s Scopus database. The SJR website ranks journals and compares their citations among different countries. The journals are also categorized based on a number of major thematic pillars as well as specific categories that are set up on the Scopus Classification. This indicator showcases the average number of weighted citations that are used in a specific year by the documents that are published in that journal within the last three years. In other words, it is the weighted citations in a specific year to documents that are published in the journal in three specific years (University of Washington, 2022).

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