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Data about your research outputs. Altmetric & bibliometric indicators: Glossary

terms and definitions


altmetrics - an abbreviation of “alternative metrics”, encompassing many different types of metric or measure. The term usually refers to measures of online activity around a research output which will complement other scores from bibliometrics. It may also refer to metrics for alternative research outputs, or other (perhaps not online) alternative ways to measure research impact. Find out more at the website. 
Note that the term is sometimes confused with the tool which offers one way to access such measures and is integrated into many publisher sites, like SpringerLink and open access repositories like Figshare. Such tools often rely on a research output having a DOI or other such unique identifier which they can track.

alternative research outputs - research outputs which differ from the mainstream. This varies by discipline: research data, records of methods used or live performances might all be considered alternative research outputs.

article level metrics - metrics associated with a single journal article.


bibliometrics - numerical measures relating to publications or research outputs like books and journals, often referring to counts or analysis of citations. Our guide to Journals - getting cited and published offers more information.


citation(s) - description(s) of a cited source. These contain information such as author’s name, title, publisher, date of publication. Such information will enable readers to trace the cited source. Note that although the mention of the source in the text itself is the true citation, when citations are counted in bibliometrics then only one citation per citing output is counted because the data usually comes from the references.

citation count - total number of citations.

citation index - An index or database tracking citations (or references) between research outputs. For example, Web of Science or Scopus where you can not only see cited sources in your article, thereby looking at earlier publications, but you can also see citing sources for an output, thus bringing you up to date with the latest related research. 

cited source(s) - the source(s) to which a citation points.

citing source(s) - source(s) in which a citation can be found.

crowd funding - raising money to fund a project through many small sponsors, usually through an online service.

crowd sourcing - drawing on members of the public (the crowd) for services or support which are usually unpaid/voluntarily offered, usually through the Internet.


DOI (Digital Object Identifier) - a means of persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property (a creation) on a digital network, irrespective of its current location. It works though registration with a central organisation.  (Definition adapted from Project COUNTER glossary)


funders - research funders might be governments: in the UK this is largely the Research Councils UK. Or alternatively they might be non-governmental organisations or charities.


h-index - a typical measure of an individual scholar’s output, based on citation count. This is the number of articles (h) which have received (h) or more citations.


impact – used in the broadest possible sense in this guide, to include impact on academics as well as the wider community. The authors note that "impact" sometimes means something more specific.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) - a unique identifying number for a journal. It is created through registration with a central organisation. Print and online versions of a journal might have different ISSNs. Most reputable journals will have an ISSN, although an ISSN is not a guarantee of quality. See the ISSN organisation's handy tool to check if an ISSN has been issued.


journal(s) - serial publications of scholarly material, traditionally with a central theme and made up of volumes containing issues, with the issues containing articles or papers from scholars. Most reputable journals will have an ISSN.


metrics - counts or numerical “scores” which follow a system or standard, involving analysis. 


normalised - indicates that values measured on different scales have been adjusted to a common scale. It enables comparison and in relation to altmetrics or bibliometrics, normalisation might be carried out to take into account the average or expected norms for an academic discipline or field of research, and/or possibly also the age or type of research output.


online identity - a persona or profile created in the online, digital space, which can function rather like an online curriculum vitae or portfolio of work. Your complete online identity might be contributed to by more than one profile or presence across many websites and platforms. You might also have more than one identity if you use more than one name or psuedonym.


research output(s)an output created through the course of a research project: often, though not always, a publication such as a book or journal article. Traditionally, these are items aimed at scholarly communication. Those which have been assigned a DOI may be trackable through altmetric tools.


scholarly communication - traditional routes to scholarly communication were letters and books, conferences and journals. The digital, online world offers many new routes to scholarly communication, many of which are less formal than publication but are now capable of being both trackable and open. For example through social media, such as in tweets and blogs.

social media - any online tool which supports and encourages social interaction could be described as social media. Typical examples of social media are Twitter and blogs. There are many other, specialist social media tools such as Instagram where the focus is on pictures, or YouTube for video clips. Many social media websites enable monitoring of social interactions, making them useful sources of data for altmetrics tools.