Article Metrics

Evolving Definitions of Article Metrics

Article metrics have traditionally been defined by the number of citations an article receives. In recent years, however, scholarly communities such as SPARC and the Public Library of Science (PloS) have advocated for additional metrics to be considered, alongside citation counts, when measuring the impact of an individual article or publication.

According to SPARC, article metrics should ideally “aggregate a variety of data points that collectively quantify not only the impact of an article, but also the extent to which it has been socialized and its immediacy.” SPARC labels this definition of article metrics as Article-Level Metrics (ALMs). Researchers are encouraged to use traditional data points such as citation counts, along with other types of data points such as usage, mentions, and Altmetrics to quantify both the “scholarly visibility” and “social visibility” of an article. These different types of data points are visualized (right), and they are also discussed below. We encourage Hopkins researchers to follow this model when conveying article metrics.

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) was the originator of Article-Level Metrics and they provide a robust set of resources and tools to facilitate the understanding and application of ALMs at

Citation Tracking

Citation tracking is used to assess the impact of articles or authors based on the number of times the article or authors have been cited by others. Citation tracking can be useful when assessing an author’s impact in a field or determining seminal papers on a topic. The graphic below shows the most highly-cited articles in the field of early mobility over a time span of decades. See example below demonstrating highly-cited articles in a field over time. Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar all show a “cited by” number for an article.

Commonly-Used Article Metrics

Indvidual articles can be measured by the following indicators:


Measures which articles have cited a particular article. Several different databases provide citation counts to discover this for individual publications.


Downloads and page views from the publisher’s site, as well as from open access repositories when an article is published twice.


Number of times bookmarked on CiteULike, shares on Mendeley, reads or downloads on ResearchGate.


Number of appearances in blogs, news articles, wikipedia articles, and other similar online content.>

Social Media Mentions

Number of posts featuring the article on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. See the Alternative Metrics section of this guide for more information.