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Measuring Research Quality and Impact - Research Guide

Alternative Metrics

Importance of Alternative Measures

Citation metrics are not the optimal method of measuring research quality or impact in some subject disciplines, especially in the humanities and social sciences:

  • Citation databases do not provide an adequate coverage for these disciplines, as they favour scientific fields and do not adequately cover books and book chapters
  • These disciplines do not tend to have a strong citation culture
  • Quality in these disciplines is more commonly demonstrated via peer review, rather than the number of citations
  • Often impact is determined in non-scholarly environments

Other disciplines, for example in the health sciences, may also be interested in determining non-scholarly impact, especially how research is being implemented in clinical practice.

Broader Impact

Subject disciplines that are not well served by citation metrics, require alternative measures. There are other forms of research impact, including:

  • Social
  • Economic
  • Influence on public policy
  • Professional practice and clinical outcomes

Identifying and locating sources for measuring non-scholarly impact will depend on the type of research you are conducting, how the research results are disseminated, and what type of impact you want to measure.

To identify examples of where your research has been mentioned, discussed or applied, in non-scholarly material, you may need to use a range of sources, including:

  • Government publications, policy documents and government websites
  • Media databases like TVNews (via Informit) or websites like The Conversation
  • Patent databases and issued patents
  • TGA approved drugs and treatment guidelines

These measures tend to be more qualitative and subjective; they require more time to collect and collate and can often be difficult to quantify.


Altmetrics are alternative metrics used to measure the impact of research based on a variety of online activities, including:

  • tweets, mentions, shares or links
  • downloads, clicks or views
  • saves, bookmarks, favourites, likes or upvotes
  • reviews, comments, ratings, or recommendations
  • readers, subscribers, watchers, or followers

Alternative metrics measure how many times a research output has been shared, mentioned or downloaded from online sources such as social media sites, blogs, mainstream media, policy documents and reference managers. Altmetrics data is accumulated at a faster rate than traditional citation metrics.

Alternative metrics complement traditional impact measurement methods and are a good alternative for disciplines, such as the humanities and social sciences, where traditional metrics are not as useful for measuring impact.

There are two tools that aggregate alternative metrics from a wide variety of different websites and online tools.


Altmetric gathers article level metrics for publications, and provides altmetric data for publishers, institutions and researchers. Altmetric sources data from social media, traditional media, policy documents and online reference managers. disambiguates links to research outputs and looks at the quantity and quality of the attention an output is receiving from 17 different sources of attention. This information is then displayed visually in the Altmetric donut. The colours of the Altmetric donut represent a different source of attention, and the amount of each colour in the donut will change depending on which sources a research output has received attention from.

Some databases and electronic journals, now have Altmetric widgets embedded in the pages for articles. An Altmetric box, Am score button, or Article metrics link will allow you to view the full article-level altmetrics.

To see some examples, view an article in any of the following resources: also offers a free Altmetric it! bookmarklet for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, which allows researchers to view altmetric information for any online article with a DOI:

  • Drag the bookmarklet into the bookmarks bar in your browser
  • View any paper in your browser
  • Click the bookmarklet to view altmetrics for the article

     Plum Analytics

Plum Analytics collects impact altmetrics called PlumX metrics in 5 categories: captures, usage, citations, mentions, and social media, for over 20 different types of research outputs including: journal articles, books, videos, presentations, datasets, source code, and others. In Plum Analytics, research outputs are called artifacts and Plum X uses a range of identifiers to track the metrics of these artifacts across a wide range of sources. This information is then displayed visually in the PlumX PlumPrint. The colours of the PlumX PlumPrint each represent a different source of attention. Plum Analytics collects metrics for individual research artifacts, but also can also provide data for laboratories, departments and other research groups.

Some databases and electronic journals, now have Plum Analytics widgets embedded in the pages for articles. A PlumX link will allow you to view the full article-level altmetrics.

To see some examples, view an article in any of the following resources:

  • EBSCOhost - Click on the PlumX PlumPrint icon
  • ScienceDirect - Click on the View details link, next to the PlumX icon
  • Scopus - Click on the PlumX PlumPrint icon


Other Sources of Altmetrics

Web of Science Core Collection - The Web of Science Core Collection now provides a Usage Count, as well as the traditional citation count. The Usage Count is given for the last 180 days and since 2013 and is the count of the number of times the full text of a record has been accessed or a record has been saved. You can also sort Web of Science Core Collection search results by usage count

PLOS Article-Level Metrics (ALMs) - ALMs are freely available for every article published by PLOS (Public Library of Science). These altmetrics include: PLOS and PubMed page views and downloads, Mendeley and CiteULike bookmarks, Scopus citation counts, and social media activities.

Kudos - A platform that allows researchers, publishers and institutions to maximise the visibility and impact of their published research. Researchers can claim their publications, provide a non-academic explanation of their research and links to supporting information, such as datasets. This collection of information about the research output can then be shared on social media. Once a researcher claims a publication, they can view metrics for it, including the number of views and full-text downloads and an altmetrics score. Kudos requires registration but is free for researchers.

Using Social Media to Promote Your Research

Using social media to promote your research and raise your research profile has many advantages and is an increasingly common academic practice. There are a variety of online tools at your disposal; however, you should use them wisely. If used responsibly, social media can create significant community engagement with your research. 

Social media that can be used for promoting research include:

The Conversation - Write for an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public

LinkedIn - A free professional networking site

Twitter - Share short updates about your research

Facebook - Create a Facebook page for your research group or project

Blogs - Start a blog to share your research

YouTube - Use multimedia to share your research


Altmetric bookmarklet FAQ -

Disciplinary Differences of the Impact of Altmetric - José Luis Ortega (2018)

Cross-metric Compatability and Inconsistencies of Altmetrics (sic) - Christine Meschede & Tobias Siebenlist (2018)

Social media: A Guide for Researchers - Research Information Network

Social Media Policy - Murdoch University