Impact Factors and Your Scientific ManuscriptRelease Date: August 24, 2012
Category: Manuscript Writing
Key Points Summary
- The impact factor of a journal indicates how many times articles
published in that journal were cited by other articles during a
- Impact factors can be used to identify journals that may result
in greater exposure for your research and may produce more citations of
your research within your field
- Impact factor should not be the sole factor considered when
determining the quality of a journal; it is only one piece of
information you can use to identify a target journal for publishing your
Journal impact factor was developed by the Institute for Scientific
Information (now part of Thomson Reuters).
Thomson Reuters determines a journal’s impact factor by calculating
the average number of times articles published by the journal during a
particular 2-year period were cited in the subsequent year.
Individual articles that are cited more times are considered more
influential because citations indicate that the article was read and the
results were considered in the design or interpretation of further
This is why a higher impact factor indicates that a journal
publishes more influential research.
Impact factor is a simple way to compare journals and offers an
approximation of how widely a journal is read and the relative prestige
of the articles in that journal.
Some researchers also interpret a high impact factor as an
indication that a journal publishes higher-quality research.
How You Can Use Impact FactorsImpact factors can indicate which journals have a larger readership
and therefore offer greater visibility for your published manuscript.
For example, a journal in your field with an impact factor of 5 is
likely to be more widely read than a journal in your field with an
impact factor of 1.
Therefore, if you are considering two journals within your field
with similar coverage, audiences, readership statistics, and publication
fees, you could consider which has a higher impact factor when making
your final target journal selection.
Although it can be helpful to consider impact factor when deciding
on a target journal for your manuscript, it may be more important to
submit to a journal within your field.
Submitting your research to a journal with a high impact factor that
is not widely read by researchers within your area of expertise could
actually reduce the visibility of your research among colleagues in your
Impact Factor CaveatsPublishers, professional organizations, and researchers do not
completely agree about the importance and significance of impact
factors. Certain publishing policies can manipulate impact factor.
For example, publishers can raise a journal’s impact factor by
publishing more review articles, which are likely to be cited more
frequently than original research manuscripts, and fewer case reports,
which are less likely to be cited.
In addition, journals with a broad readership can have a few highly
cited articles that increase the impact factor for the entire journal,
even if most of the journal’s articles are not as highly cited.
A number of professional associations and publishers have issued
official statements discussing how they approach impact factor, and some
have even proposed or developed alternative metrics.
More Resources for Impact Factor Information
- Jump, Paul. Research Intelligence - Citing to win as journals 'game' system. Times Higher Education.
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=420794&c=1 (accessed 15 Aug 2012).
- Saha, Somnath, Saint, Sanjay, and Christakis, Dimitri A. Impact
factor: a valid measure of journal quality? J Med Libr Assoc. 91 (2003)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC141186/ (accessed 15 Aug 2012).
- Thomson Reuters. The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor.
http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/impact_factor/ (accessed 15 Aug 2012).
Scientific Writing WorkshopsIf you like our articles, try our workshops!
Our articles are based on the material from our scientific writing
workshops, which cover these and many other topics more thoroughly, with
more examples and discussion.
We offer on-site workshops for your event or organization, and also
host workshops that individual participants can attend.
Our on-site scientific writing workshops can range from 1-2 hours to
several days in length.
We can tailor the length to suit your needs, and we can deliver a
writing workshop as a stand-alone activity or as part of scheduled
Our scientific writing workshops consistently receive high praise
from participants including graduate students, post-docs, and faculty in
Please see our scientific writing workshop page for details.
If you found this article helpful or if there is a topic you want us to address in a future article, please
online comment submision form,
contact us directly. Your comments and suggestions are valuable!
Click here to return to our scientfic editing article library.
Impact Factors and Your Scientific Manuscript