UC MERCED LIBRARY TUTORIALS
Finding Important Journals in a Research Discipline
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This tutorial will show you how to locate the most important journals (those with the highest impact) in a research discipline.
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There are literally tens of thousands of academic journals that publish the scholarly output of universities and research centers throughout the world. Scholars must decide which journals are the best to read and publish in.
The primary method for evaluating which are “the best” journals in any given research discipline is to find out how many times articles in that journal are cited by other articles. This is metric is called the impact factor.
What is an impact factor?
Journal Citation Reports (JCR), a library database, can be used to look up journal impact factors. JCR calculates citations between all journals included in the JCR database. To access JCR:
First, we’ll look at a specific research area and see how the journals in this field are ranked according to impact factor. We’ll look at journals in the field of agronomy. From the JCR landing page:
To see a listing of journals in this area, select "Journals by Rank," at the top of the list.
This page is a list of journals from the field of agronomy. Each column has information about the journal.
More information about JCR metrics.
Impact factors vary widely between disciplines. For example, you'll notice that the highest impact factor for an agronomy journal is ~ 5. This is very different than the highest impact factor for a cell biology journal. Let’s go back and look at the cell biology journals to see the difference.
You can see that journals in the field of cell biology have much higher impact factors than journals in the field of agronomy:
This doesn’t mean that cell biology journals are better or more important that agronomy journals. It just means that more articles are being written and cited in this field. That’s why it’s important to first examine journal impact factors within the context of a research discipline. Once you are familiar with the range of impact factors in a discipline, finding the impact factor for an individual journal will make more sense.
We’ll search for a particular journal in JCR titled Biology of the Cell.
You will see information about the journal from a variety of years. You will also see information about regions, organizations, metrics, etc.
Knowing the range of impact factors for journals in the field of cell biology, what does the impact factor for Biology of the Cell tell you about the relative importance of this journal?
Journal Citation Reports is a UC Merced licensed database. To use JCR from off campus, you will need to use the VPN to connect to the campus network.
What is the VPN?
This concludes the Finding Important Journals in a Research Discipline tutorial. Now that you’ve finished:
Questions? Contact the library email@example.com or 209-228-4444.
Journal impact factors vary across disciplines because:
Choose the best ending for this sentence:
The impact factor of a journal determined by...
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