University of Pittsburgh's Homepage


Traditional attempts to capture scholarly impact have been measured using methods collectively referred to as “Bibliometrics.” The term was coined by Alan Pritchard in his 1969 paper entitled “Statistical Bibliography or Bibliometrics?” in which he defined the term as “the application of mathematics and statistical methods to books and other media of communication.” (Pritchard, 1969)

Bibliometrics seeks to quantitatively analyze scientific and technological literature in an attempt to determine the scholarly impact of an article or published work. One of the most common methods is citation analysis, whereby a citation is examined primarily for frequency and for patterns of occurrence in other published works. The merit or value of actual research is then judged according to these analyses.

Since print was the primary medium for transmission in Pritchard’s time, researchers had no choice but to rely on biblometrics and endure the not uncommon waiting period of 1-3 years before the impact of a published article could be known. Today, tools for bibliometrics have improved and can in some cases significantly cut down on the wait, but the inherent reliance on citation counts is not equipped to take into account emerging channels of scholarly communication that do not rely solely on print journal publication. The rise of electronic resources and e-journals has in some cases made bibliometrics difficult to implement, and bibliometrics lacks the ability to measure the impact of scholarly output in non-traditional avenues, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Enter Altmetrics.

For those interested in bibliometrics, Liaison Librarian Robin Kear has created a helpful LibGuide discussing topics such as the h-index, Eigenfactor, Impact Factor, Journal Citation Reports, and other tools.