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Journalism - Maximizing Research Impact & Identity: Journal Impact

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Communication Journals, Journal Impact Factor & Alternative Metrics

A 2013 Report from the National Communication Association and Communication Councils Association

  • Details the current range of coverage of Communication journals in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science Social Science Citation Index (SSCI)/Journal Citation Reports (JCR) and the manner that impact factors are calculated.
    • Impact Factors measure citation patterns and practices, not impact or quality
    • Impact Factors are improperly used in a variety of ways
  • Considers the relative aggregate place of the Communication journals indexed in comparison to other disciplines
    • For Communication, Impact Factors/citation data are misused to define the discipline and its research
  • Discusses concerns and objections about the role and influence of impact factors
  • Discusses emerging alternative indexes and metrics for measuring journal quality and impact
    • Impact Factors are potentially manipulated and may derive from alternative factors

Additionally, the CCA report suggested that "Many alternative metrics offer greater coverage of the Communication academic literature while also tracking and reporting on citation patterns."

List of 105 communication journals compiled by the NCA in 2012 ( with 2011 Impact Factors)

Source: National Communication Association (2013). Impact factors, journal quality, and communication journals : A Report for the Council of Communication Associations, 21(10).

Journal Impact Factor

Journal Impact Factors are released annually by Thomson Reuters' Journal Citation Reports – InCitesRestricted to faculty, students, and staff at The University of Missouri.  A journal's Impact Factor for a particular year = (the total number of times its articles were cited during the two previous years)/(the total number of citable articles in the journal during those two years).

Within a given research field, journals with higher Impact Factors are thought to be more influential than journals with lower Impact Factors. The magnitude of Impact Factors varies substantially across different research fields. 

Caveat:  Only journals in the sciences and social sciences that meet Thomson Reuters standards for inclusion in the Web of Science Core Collection are assigned impact factors.  Impact factors are not computed for journals in the humanities.

On going Debate:  Currently impact factors are the most widely known way to rank journals, however they are controversial.  Some people believe that impact factors do not accurately reflect the impact of a journal or article.  (Activation Energy Blog, Oct. 22, 2015)

Google Scholar Metrics - The H-index

Google Scholar Metrics is designed to help authors "gauge the visibility and influence of recent articles in scholarly publications." Towards that goal, Google Scholar Metrics assigns publications a variety of rankings based upon Google's h-index.

H-index is based on h-core, which "is a set of top cited h articles from" a given publication. "The h-median is a measure of the distribution of citations to the h-core articles." Search results display h-index and h-median scores for publications based on the last 5 complete calendar years.

For more information on the methodology and data sources behind the rankings, see Google Scholar Metrics Questions? page.

SCImago Journal Rank Indicator

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) indicators are released annually at Scimago Labs www.scimagojr.com (free). The underlying data come from Scopus.

The SJR indicator is inspired by Google's PageRank algorithm. A journal's SJR indicator is a measure of the number of citations received by its articles considering the importance of the journals where those citations came from. It is intended to measure journal prestige as opposed to journal popularity. 

Calculation of the SJR measure was recently modified; average SJR is now equal to 1, which means that journals with SJRs higher than 1 are more prestigious than average. 

IPP - Impact per Publication

The Impact per Publication (IPP) measures the ratio of citations in a year (Y) to scholarly papers published in the three previous years (Y-1, Y-2, Y-3) divided by the number of scholarly papers published in those same years (Y-1, Y-2, Y-3). The Impact per Publication metric is using a citation window of three years which is considered to be the optimal time period to accurately measure citations in most subject fields. Taking into account the same peer-reviewed scholarly papers only in both the numerator and denominator of the equation provides a fair impact measurement of the journal and diminishes the change of manipulation.

SNIP - Normalized Impact per Paper

The Source Normalized Inpact per Paper (SNIP) measures contextual citation impact by weighting citations based on the total number of citations in a subject field. The impact of a single citation is given higher value in subject areas where citations are less likely, and vice versa. SNIP is defined as the ratio of a journal's raw impact per publication and the citation potential in its subject field. This allows for evaluation of a journal compared to its competition and provides more contextual information, giving a better picture of the impact depending on the citation behavior in the field.  A journal's SNIP = (citation count per paper)/(citation potential within its field).