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Research, Scholarship, & Creative Activity (RSCA) Impact

Researcher / Author Impact

Researcher or author impact is a measure of author productivity and impact over time. Currently, the most common measure used is the h-index which measures the impact of a particular researcher rather than a journal. The h-index is based on number of citations per publication and the total number of publications. For example, to have an h-index of 5, five of a scholar’s publications must have been cited by others at least five times each.

While more sophisticated than plain citation counts, the h-index has caveats, of course, and it's best to use this measure in context, comparing scholars with their peers, and using other metrics as well. The h-index was developed by J.E. Hirsch, a physicist at the University of California in San Diego. View Hirsch’s original paper.


H-index Caveats & Limitations

  • What constitutes a "high" h-index varies by discipline (physicists have higher h-indexes than librarians, generally).
  • People who have many co-authors will have a higher h-index than those who author more solo papers.
  • H-index calculating tools, like Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Scopus, will estimate someone's h-index differently from one another because they're relying on different sources (e.g. Web of Science's database is smaller and more academic than Google Scholar's).
  • The h-index is dependent on a researcher's "academic age." Someone who has been publishing longer will have a higher h-index relative to a newer researcher.
  • Manually calculating an h-index will likely result in a different number than automated h-indexes. It's always best to use the h-index in context, comparing scholars with their peers, and using other metrics as well.

Content courtesy of Oregon State University Library's Research Metrics guide.

Tools for Determining Researcher/Author Impact

NOTE: Some databases require a subscription; SJSU has subscriptions to the following databases.


To find a researcher's h-index:

  1. Conduct an "Author search" using the researcher's last name. Include affiliation information and/or limit by subject areas as necessary
  2. From the results list, select the researcher's name. The h-index will be listed near the top of the page.
  3. Select "View h-graph" to generate a visualization as well as adjust different variables to recalculate h-index.


Web of Science

To find a researcher's h-index:

  1. Change the search from "Basic Search" to "Author" by clicking on "More" and then "Author"
  2. Enter the author's name
  3. Choose "Select Research Domain" - select all the fields the author is likely to have published in
  4. Choose "Select Organization" to narrow to specific organizations
  5. From the results page, select "Create Citation Report" in upper right corner 
  6. Review the results to make sure they are accurate. Check the box next to any records that are not relevant and select "Go." The h-index will be listed at the top of the page along with other metrics.


Google Scholar

To find a researcher's h-index:

  1. Search for their name. If the results include a user profile with the correct name, discipline, and institution, select the name. The h-index will be displayed for that author under "citation indices" on the top right-hand side.

h-index bar chart example


How to Calculate Your H-Index

h-index graphTo calculate your h-index, list your papers based on the number of their citations, from most to least. The number of citations for each paper must be equal to or greater than its rank in order to be counted. Thus, if your first paper has at least one citation, your h index is at least one. If your second paper has at least two citations, your h-index is at least two, and so on. If you have papers A, B, C, D, and E, with 68, 12, 10, 3, and 2, respectively, your h-index is 3, because paper D (your fourth paper) must have more than four citations to be counted.