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Journal impact factor (JIF) was developed to help libraries decide which journals to purchase. Over the ensuing decades, it became widely used as an indicator of prestige. Authors often look at JIF to determine where to submit their research. Tenure & promotion committees, grant agencies, or hiring committees may also note the impact of journals in which candidates have been published. This use of JIF to assess researchers' merit is highly controversial.
A journal's impact factor is based on two numbers:
So, it can be expressed as: # citations / # articles. If Journal X published 108 articles over the past two years and the articles were collectively cited 512 times, Journal X would have an impact factor of 4.741.
To find the impact factor of a journal, you'll need access to Thomson Scientific's Journal Citation Reports (JCR). This is a subscription-based product.
1. Go to the OSU Libraries' A - Z Databases page.
2. Find the entry for Journal Citation Reports (InCites) and click on it. You can use the other JCR option, too; this one simply has enhanced features.
You'll notice that most of the top journals are broad scientific journals or biomedical journals. What constitutes a "high" impact factor varies between disciplines. Click "Select category" to narrow to a discipline. If you're looking for the JIF of one particular journal, you can use the search box to locate it.
"The scientific community must not rely exclusively on the impact factors of journals . . . When it comes to judging the quality and significance of a body of work, there is no substitute for qualitative assessment. And it bears repeating that the impact factor is not an article-level metric, nor was it intended as a yardstick for comparing researchers’ scholarly contributions."
Verma, I. M. (2015). Impact, not impact factor. PNAS, 112(26), pp. 7875-7876. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509912112
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