H-Index: Google Scholar vs. Scopus vs. Web of Science

Wondering the best way to calculate an H-Index? You’re not alone! There was some recent chatter on a medical librarian listserv about methods and inclusion differences between Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science. It was some new information for me, so I thought I’d share.

First, what exactly is an h-index? It’s a calculation of a researchers importance based on productivity and importance in the field, where “productivity” is number of publications and “importance in the field” is the number of times cited by other researchers. It’s particularly useful as an impact tool because it discounts the disproportionate weight of highly cited papers or papers that have not yet been cited. An h-index provides a method of comparing researchers within a field, but does a poor job comparing researchers across fields. 

There are three main places (that I know of!) to get an h-index report: Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science. 

Google Scholar

To get an h-index from Google Scholar, go to “My Citations” at the top of the Scholar homepage. Once you’ve collected your publications in your profile, you can calculate your number. It will also generate some useful graphs that show trends in citations over time. What’s interesting about Scholar is that it will give you slightly higher numbers due to their looser criteria for inclusion. If you calculate your h-index on Scholar, make sure to check it against other places to make sure you’re in the right range.

Scopus

The process for calculating an h-index is relatively simple in Scopus and there’s a ton of great how-to info at the Taubman Research Guide. The thing that’s worth noting with Scopus is that it only considers articles published after 1995. So, if you’ve published before 1995, this citation analysis probably won’t give you an accurate portrayal because it won’t include all citations. Scopus also have journal citation reports, which can be handy in identifying high impact journals. 

Web of Science

Like Scopus, check out this great Taubman research guide for instruction on getting started. According to this really interesting paper, and my own personal observation, there doesn’t tend to be a large difference between Web of Science and Scopus. There are differences depending on discipline though. For example, Scopus indexes more high impact theoretical computer science conference series, which accounts for lower h-indexes in WOS than in Scopus. 

It’s also worth mentioning that an h-index gives a very limited view of research impact because it doesn’t take into account other ways that researchers can have effect change in their disciplines. Altmetrics seeks to address this issue. To learn more about altmetrics, check out this blog post, or this one specifically about Scopus and altmetrics

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