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Understanding Journal Metrics

Understanding journal metrics

As part of our commitment to publishing impactful research that helps to influence and inform policy, practice, and the public, Sage has committed to the five principles for publishers outlined in the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). As a result of our obligation, we make article-level metrics available to encourage assessment based on the content of the article rather than a journal’s publication metrics. We reduce emphasis on Impact Factor as a promotional tool and present a variety of metrics for researchers to use to assess a journal’s performance.

Visit our DORA website to learn more about the various ways we are taking action.

This page is your primer on what journal and article metrics are and how to use them.


Journal and article-level metrics

Journal and article metrics serve as tools for evaluating research. They offer a standardized way to gauge the quality and impact of academic work. These metrics can help ensure researchers receive recognition for their valuable contributions and aid institutions and funders in making efficient resource allocations. Universities, funding organizations, and researchers themselves may use metrics to inform decisions. Journal metrics provide a quick assessment of a journal's influence, while article-level metrics help determine the impact of individual research papers. Metrics help maintain transparency and fairness in scholarly publishing.

A journal's metrics page includes downloads and impact data from abstracting and indexing services like Google Scholar, Journal Citation Reports, and Scopus (where available). This comprehensive approach offers a more complete picture of a journal's performance. You can access a journal’s metrics page by visiting the journal homepage and following the “Journal indexing and metrics” link under the “Journal Information” menu.

A journal’s article-level metrics, including downloads and citations, offer valuable insights into a researcher’s contribution to the discipline and the wider community.  You can access an article’s metrics page by visiting the article and selecting “Metrics and citations” in the top navigation menu.

Understanding research metrics

Each journal published by Sage has a journal metrics webpage and each article has metrics information available online. We provide a brief description of the available metrics below:

Journal Metrics


Readership metrics are included on the journal’s metrics page along with individual article pages.

  • Full Text usage: Full text usage is the sum of PDF and HTML downloads from the journal platform during the prior calendar year.
  • Abstracting and Indexing: The metrics page of a journal will list the abstracting and indexing databases in which it is included.

Peer Review and Production

Where available, average peer review decision speed, production speed, and acceptance ratio can be provided to editors.

  • Time to first decision: Time to first decision is defined as time from submission to first decision for all original submissions decided within the prior calendar year. Revisions are not included.
  • Production speed: The average number of days a manuscript spends in Sage Production, beginning when the manuscript is exported from Sage Track and ending when the manuscript is published online.
  • Acceptance rate: Acceptance rate is based on manuscripts that have received final decisions of accept or reject (does not count revisions). Counts for acceptances, rejections, and acceptance ratios are based on the date the decision is made, not the date the manuscript was submitted.

Scopus, SCImago Journal Rank (SJR), and CiteScore

Developed by Scopus and using their dataset, the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) metric expresses the average number of weighted citations received in the selected year by the documents published in the selected journal in the three previous years, i.e. weighted citations received in year X to documents published in the journal in years X-1, X-2 and X-3. Read the SCImago description of SJR and visit the Scopus website for more information.

  • CiteScore: Scopus provides the journal's CiteScore, which is calculated as the total citations made in the CiteScore year and the prior three years to content published in the CiteScore year and the prior three years, divided by the total number of items published by the journal in the CiteScore year and prior three years.
  • Source-normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP): SNIP calculates a journal’s citation count per paper and divides it by the citation potential in the journal’s subject area to account for variability between subject categories.
  • SCImago Journal Rank (SJR): The SJR weighs incoming citations according to the prestige of the publications they come from. Total, weighted citations made in the SCImago year to content published in a journal in the prior three years are divided by the total number of items published by the journal in the prior three years.

Google Scholar metrics

Google Scholar metrics provide a comprehensive compilation of citation numbers for a wide range of publications. This allows authors to measure the visibility and influence of a journal. Indexed publications are assigned three available metrics based on content published in the last five completed calendar years:

  • h5-index: Google’s h5-index is calculated by finding the h-index for articles in a publication over the last five complete calendar years, where h is equal to the number of articles over a five-year period that have at least h citations each.
  • h5-median: The h5-median is calculated by finding the median number of citations for the articles that comprise a publication’s h5-index.

Clarivate Analytics and Journal Citation Reports (JCR) metrics

Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters) runs four separate journal indexing services: Social Science Citation Index, Science Citation Index Expanded, Arts & Humanities Citation Index and Emerging Sources Citation Index. Through these indexes Clarivate collects information (e.g., journal details, article titles, authors, abstracts, reference lists etc.) on articles published in a select group of journals worldwide. Visit Clarivate’s website for further information regarding the journal selection process and criteria.

Clarivate uses this information to build the online database Web of Science. Clarivate also uses this information to perform various other services, the most prominent of which is the annual publication online of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR).

Journal Citation Reports

The Journal Citation Reports (JCR) analyzes the citation data retrieved from Web of Science and uses it to calculate various metrics, the most widely referenced of which is the Impact Factor. In this way, JCR seeks to rank individual journals according to the frequency by which recent content has been cited. You can find more information on JCR, including user guides and references, on Clarivate’s website.

Brief descriptions of JCR metrics:

  • 2-year Impact Factor: The Impact Factor is a measure of the importance of a journal and is calculated by dividing the number of citations in the JCR year by the total number of citable articles published electronically in the two previous years. It is a measure of the average citation impact of a journal. Averages across a subject category are different for every category.
  • 5-year Impact Factor: Similar to the 2-Year Impact Factor but is based on the number of times articles published in the past five years have been cited in the JCR year, rather than just the past two years. It provides a wider focus on the average citation impact of a journal and is especially appropriate for journals in subject categories that trend toward a longer citation life per article.
  • Cites to Recent Items: Cites to recent items (numerator) must be from other journals indexed in the Web of Science. Citations (in any type of contribution, e.g., editorials as well as articles) that acknowledge the journal title and the cited year (as provided by the author) are counted.
  • Citable Items: Cites must be to original articles, review articles or proceedings papers. These are known as citable items (denominator). The numerator and denominator are aggregated independently. The denominator reflects the electronic publication date of the source item. An item published online in 2015 and included in a 2016 issue is indexed with 2015 as the publication year and is considered part of the journal content in 2015. 
  • Immediacy Index: The average number of times an article is cited in the year it is published. This provides a picture of the immediate citation impact of a document and is often a smaller number since same year citations are rare.
  • Journal Citation Indicator: The algorithm used to calculate the JCI combines citation averages (like the Impact Factor) with category normalization. This calculation includes citations from the current year and prior 3 years to citable items published in the prior 3 years. Because the JCI is normalized for each category, a JCI of 1 represents the median of that category. A JCI above 1 means a better than average score, and a JCI below 1 represents a below average score. Because of the category normalization and broader reach of the JCI, it provides a comprehensive picture of a journal’s citation impact in recent years.

View the full Glossary on Clarivate’s website.

Article metrics

Impact metrics

Alternative metrics are becoming increasingly visible in scholarly publishing. Altmetric tracks online mentions of journal articles across online platforms and uses an algorithm to score accordingly. The Altmetric Attention score is a helpful measure of online engagement and visibility, but it is not directly linked to citations or usage.

Altmetric Attention Score: Weighted count of all the online attention Altmetric has found for an individual research output. This includes mentions in public policy documents and references in Wikipedia, the mainstream news, social networks, blogs, and more. This is the number that appears in the badges.

Visit Altmetric’s website for a list of Attention Sources tracked, along with Altmetric’s support site for FAQs and more information.

Visit Sage’s Policy Profiles tool to discover where your research is being cited in policy documents.

Crossref: Crossref tracks the total number of citations linked to a publication. Citations must come from publications registered with Crossref.

Usage: Article usage counts all views and downloads for that article. This can be found in the Metrics and citation section on an article’s webpage.

Using research metrics

Journal and article-level impact metrics play a pivotal role in assessing the influence and significance of scholarly work. Journal-level metrics can aid researchers in gauging the prominence of a journal within their field. Article-level metrics, including citation counts, download statistics, and Altmetric score offer insights into the impact of individual research papers. By analyzing these metrics, researchers and editors can identify trends and topics of interest.

Improving journal and article-level impact metrics requires a multi-faceted approach aimed at enhancing the quality, visibility, and engagement of scholarly work. In both cases, fostering a culture of collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement within the academic community can contribute to sustained growth in impact metrics. It's important to note that while metrics provide valuable insights, the goal remains the generation of meaningful and influential research.

For authors

As an author, there are several ways to boost your article’s impact before and after publication.

When preparing for submission, you can consider:

Striving for open-access publication can enhance visibility and accessibility, making your research available to a broader audience. Visit Sage’s Open Access Publishing Gateway to see our Open Access options.

Publication is not the end of the process! You can help disseminate your paper and ensure it is as widely read and cited as possible by:

  • Actively sharing your published articles through personal websites, social media platforms, and academic networks to increase the chances of reaching a wider readership and attracting citations. Sage Journals article access sharing lets you share a read-only version of an article with your friends and colleagues or on social media, visit the article sharing website for more information.
  • Collaborating with colleagues and experts in related fields to extend the reach of your research and stimulate interdisciplinary discussions.
  • Monitoring usage and citation counts allowing you to assess the resonance of your work and adapt your strategies accordingly.
  • Tracking Altmetric engagement with your work outside of the research

Visit Sage’s Author Gateway for more ways to promote your articles and maximize your impact.

For editors

Impact metrics assist editors in evaluating the success of specific initiatives or changes made to the journal's format or scope. By monitoring how these changes correlate with shifts in impact metrics, you can make informed adjustments to enhance the journal's standing and relevance. Impact metrics empower you to make data-driven decisions that optimize the journal's impact, reputation, and contribution to the scholarly community, all while fostering an environment that supports rigorous and influential research.

For journal-level impact, you can focus on curating a diverse range of high-quality content that addresses emerging research trends and challenges. Implementing rigorous peer review processes and maintaining ethical publishing standards will foster credibility and attract top-tier submissions. Collaborations with well-respected researchers and institutions can also elevate a journal's reputation. Engaging in strategic marketing efforts, such as social media promotion and conference presence, can broaden the journal's reach and readership. Visit DORA’s website for research impact strategies and resources.

Visit Sage's Editor Gateway for more information on citation strategies for your journal, such as: