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Altmetrics: Measure Research Impact: Introduction to Altmetrics

Alternative metrics of research impact using web resources

Citation Metrics

Two citation-based metrics called the journal impact factor and the h-index are popular when judging scholarly work.

Journal Impact Factor

The journal impact factor (JIF) is a proprietary metric provided annually by Thomson Reuters. It's a journal-level measure that is calculated by dividing X (the total number of citations received by any articles published in a two-year period in a particular journal) by (the total number of articles published in that journal during the same two-year period).


The h-index is a measure that attempts to quantify the impact of a scholar with a single number that balances productivity and impact. For example, a researcher with an h-index of 10 has published at 10 papers over the course of her career that have each accumulated at least 10 citations. The h-index is a popular measure in the scieneces used for hiring and promotion.

What are Altmetrics?

Alternative metrics, or Altmetrics, are measures of research impact that supplement citations.

  • Altmetrics measure the wider and societal impacts of scholarly works by tracking how they are discussed, shared, saved, read, and reused by scholars and the public. 
  • Altmetrics also expose the contexts that underlie the numbers, so scholars can see not only how often their work is discussed online, but who and what others are saying about it. 

Altmetrics are sourced from many web platforms and medias: number of downloads and mentions in venues such as local and national newspapers, government documents, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, blogs, etc), and web-based reference managers like Mendeley and Zotero.

List of Example Altmetrics



Example Sources


clicks, downloads, views, library holdings, video plays

institutional repository, Github, figshare


bookmarks, code forks, favorites, readers, watchers

Mendeley, Delicious, Slideshare 


blog posts, comments, reviews, Wikipedia links

Wikipedia, Amazon, Slideshare, Facebook, YouTube

Social media

+1s, likes, shares, Tweets

Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter


cited by

PubMed Central, Scopus, USPTO

To learn how to add Altmetrics in CV and dossiers, go to "Altmetrics in Promotion and Tenure".

To learn Altmetrics workshops and services offered by OSU libraries, go to "Workshops and Services".

Altmetrics vs. Citation Metrics

Altmetrics Advantages

  • Allowing researchers to better understand the "broader impacts" of their work from various sources.
  • Offering important contextual information such as "who" and the "what" of the impacts.
  • Altmetrics data can be gathered at real time rather than waiting months or years to accumulate.
  • Altmetrics can measure the impacts not only of articles and books, but also of presentation, software, and research data.

Altmetrics —Limitations

  • No agreement on how to choose and combine sources of data among service providers.
  • Attention does not equal quality.
  • Can be misused and misinterpreted (just like citation metrics).
Altmetrics are useful supplementary measures of impact, best used in tandem with traditional measures like citation counts. Together, the two types of metrics can illustrate the full impact of your work.

Digital Application Librarian

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Hui Zhang
121 The Valley Library, Corvallis, OR 97331


Zhang, H., & Jackson, K. (est. 2016). A Measured Approach: Evaluating Altmetrics as a Library Service. In K. Smith (Ed.), Open Access and the Future of Academic Libraries (Vol. 2). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Konkiel, Stacy (2015): The Ultimate Guide to Altmetrics (for researchers). figshare.

Retrieved 05:08, May 08, 2015 (GMT)