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Bibliometrics: a Practical Guide



altmetrics = alternative metrics
"altmetrics is the creation and study of new metrics based on the Social Web for analyzing, and informing scholarship." (

Altmetrics (or alternative metrics) provide article-level evidence of the societal impact of research, in terms of its mentions in social media (blogs, Facebook and Twitter), Wikipedia and other quasi-scholarly platforms, news sources and policy documents. 

Altmetrics can include:

  • tweets, mentions, shares or links
  • downloads, clicks or views
  • saves, bookmarks, favourites, likes or upvotes
  • mainstream media mentions
  • reviews, comments, ratings, or recommendations
  • adaptations or derivative works, and
  • readers, subscribers, watchers, or followers.

Best uses: Altmetrics can help researchers understand how their outputs are being shared and discussed via social media and online, and may supplement the information gained from traditional indicators.

A beginner's guide to altmetrics (video)

How are altmetrics calculated?

Image from the Altmetrics in Context report by the Canadian Association of Research LibrariesDifferent sources go into altmetric calculations, depending on the provider and the information that they are using. But in general, a high altmetric score indicates that an item has received a lot of attention and it has also received what that provider has decided is "quality" attention (i.e. a news post might be more valuable than a twitter mention).

Remember: Attention doesn't necessarily indicate that the article is important or even of quality.

How to track altmetrics

Scopus includes Altmetric data within its article level metricsMany publishers now present altmetric data within their own websites and resources. For example, Altmetric badges (or 'donuts') are now embedded within many sources including our own White Rose Research Online (WRRO) open access repository - this article in WRRO is a good example of these features.

The following includes some notable examples of altmetrics providers and aggregators but it is not an exhaustive list.

"Academics use to share their research, monitor deep analytics around the impact of their research, and track the research of academics they follow." is a platform for sharing research which also includes analytics. Authors who register (free of charge) to create a personal profile and upload their papers gain access to a range of analytic data about who has viewed and downloaded their material.

Consider what information you should disclose: Make sure you only publish information that you are legally allowed to disclose to others. See the How can I share it? website and our Practical guide to copyright for further guidance. watches social media sites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+), science blogs, many mainstream media outlets (e.g. The Guardian and non-English language publications like Le Monde), special interest publications (e.g. New Scientist) and reference managers (e.g. Mendeley, CiteULike) for mentions of research outputs.

You can also download the Altmetric bookmarklet for your own use. Install it in your browser to get one-click article level indicators when reading an online journal article.

Altmetric is a commercial provider of altmetrics data. Article-level data is free, but an institutional subscription is necessary to view aggregate scores for an author, institution or journal title.

Read Altmetric for researchers for an introduction, using altmetrics, tools, and to read case studies about how other researchers are using altmetric data.

Impactstory example profileImpactstory is a web-based application that tracks the amount of attention/mentions for a wide range of research outputs, from traditional ones like journal articles, to emerging outputs such as blog posts, datasets and software. It collects and aggregates data from multiple sources to produce a single online profile.

Click on 'See an example profile' on the home page to find out if a profile would work for you.

Learn more about Impactstory data sources and achievements.

Impactstory is now free to use but you need to have a Twitter account.

Mendeley logoMendeley is free to join and acts as a reference manager (and sharer) for academics and students.

Open Mendeley (login not required) and click on 'Search', search for an article or subject using the 'Papers' tab. When you click on the article title the Mendeley 'Readers' indicator is shown, i.e. the number of Mendeley users who have added the article to their personal Mendeley library. Also provided are 'Citations' and 'Views' (the number of downloads on ScienceDirect).

Note: Mendeley 'Readers' indicators are incorporated into other resources, e.g. Scopus, often with more granularity.

Consider what information you should disclose: Make sure you only publish information that you are legally allowed to disclose to others. See the How can I share it? website and our Practical guide to copyright for further guidance

PLOS article level indicatorsOpen PLOS One (or any of the the other Public Library of Science journals) and search for an article or subject.

PLOS indicates whether each article has any:

  • views - both HTML views and downloads in PLOS and PubMed Central; or Figshare views of supporting information
  • citations - in Scopus, Web of Science, PubMed Central or CrossRef; or a one-click search of Google Scholar
  • saves - in CiteULike or Mendeley
  • shares (discussions) - on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, blogs or PLOS Comments.

Click on the 'Metrics' tab in the article page to see the indicators in more detail. PLOS provides more detail about each of the data sources and the activity measured.

PLOS also provides ALM Reports, a reporting tool that allows you to view article level indicators for any set of PLOS articles. In addition, you can summarise and visualise the data.

"This page mashes up alt-metrics data from Altmetric with articles from the Public Library of Science (PLoS)."

Developed by Altmetric, the 'PLOS Impact Explorer' shows altmetrics for PLOS papers that have recently received coverage. It is not possible to search for specific papers using this tool.

Plum Analytics is a commercial provider of altmetrics, owned by Elsevier.

PlumX collects altmetrics in five categories:

Usage, captures, mentions, social media, citations: five altmetrics in PlumX

It tracks data for research outputs including journal articles, books, videos, presentations, conference proceedings, datasets, source code, cases and other types of scholarly communication.

PlumX is a subscription-based product.

Note: Elsevier announced (Feb, 2017) that it will incorporate Plum Analytics’ indicators into their research products.(e.g. Mendeley, Scopus, ScienceDirect, SciVal and Pure).

Strengths and weaknesses of altmetrics


  • Speed - altmetrics can accumulate more quickly than traditional indicators such as citations.
  • Range - altmetrics can be gathered for many types of research outputs, not just scholarly articles.
  • Granularity - altmetrics provide indicators at the article level, rather than journal level.
  • Macro view - altmetrics can give a fuller picture of research impact using many indicators, not just citations.
  • Public impact - altmetrics can measure impact outside the academic world, where people may use but not formally cite research.
  • Sharing - if researchers get credit for a wider range of research outputs, such as datasets, it could motivate further sharing.


  • Reliability - like any indicator, there's a potential for gaming. Also, altmetrics may indicate popularity with the public, but not necessarily quality research.
  • Difficulty - altmetrics can be difficult to collect, for example bloggers or tweeters may not use unique identifiers for articles.
  • Relevance - there are many different altmetrics providers available and it can be hard to determine which are the most relevant and worth taking time to collect.
  • Acceptance - currently, many funders (and some institutions) use traditional indicators to measure research impact.
  • Context - use of online tools may differ by discipline, geographic region, and over time, making altmetrics difficult to interpret.