When it comes to journal metrics, we know editors and authors alike want to increase citations. Traditionally, citations are perceived as one of the most important metrics for assessing the performance of a journal or article, and have driven a whole range of citation-based metrics from Impact Factor to Eigenfactor. While it’s important to recognize that citations are not the be-all and end-all of journal performance metrics, they can provide a good indication of academic impact.
It can help to think of impact, reach, and citations as forming a virtuous circle – where an increase in one naturally leads on to improve the others. The greater the reach of a journal, the more likely it is to make an impact, which in turn may lead to citations; these combine to boost the reputation of a journal within its field, which helps the reach to grow.
Does publishing open access increase citations? There’s no clear consensus on this yet – some studies have suggested that open access papers are cited more often than articles that are only available to subscribers, whereas other studies suggest the opposite. One thing is certain: open access content has the potential to reach a much wider audience, and achieve greater impact. Whether this filters through to increase citations remains to be seen.
The majority of Taylor & Francis journals are either fully open access, or offer an open access option, so by encouraging uptake of open publishing with your authors you may see an increase in citations. If open access publishing is not an option for your journal, you may wish to consider making some papers freely available for a short time, as part of your marketing strategy. These could be papers which are most read, or have been cited highly in the past, or research which has the potential to make a big impact in the field.
Review articles are commonly used to provide a broad overview of a particular topic by synthesizing the existing research in that area. Because of this format, they are often among a journal’s most read and highly cited articles. Therefore it stands to reason that if your journal publishes content in this format, time should be taken to ensure these articles are the very best they can be. Be strategic in your thinking, and consider commissioning high profile researchers to write these review articles, to make the most of their impact.
Review articles aren’t the only article type which can be commissioned – editors should consider commissioning content in any format on hot topics in the field. This could be a standalone article for a regular issue, or a special section, issue, or supplement which examines the theme in more detail.
Use your expertise as a journal editor to identify what issues are trending in your field. Use tools like Altmetric to dig deeper into what your research community is talking about online. Inspiration for special issues can come from anywhere – an editorial board meeting, attending a conference, or even a conversation on Twitter – so be open to new ideas.
You could put out a Call for Papers to generate submissions on a specific theme, but by researching the leading authors in your field and approaching them directly you may have more success in producing a high-impact publication. Read our guide to developing high impact content to find out more about commissioning content, including how to identify the leading authors in your field.
Before commissioning any new content in a bid to increase citations, you need to examine the current citation patterns in your field. Use tools like Web of Science to identify zero-cited and highly cited papers for your journal and your key competitors.
Don’t just focus this analysis within the two-year Impact Factor window (although that can be useful), but take a look at longer-term trends to see the full life-cycle of articles in your area. This analysis will give you a sense of the topics which are well-cited, help you to identify any emerging themes, and even compare different article types to see what formats are cited well and poorly.
Remember, you can always reach out to your Portfolio Manager at Taylor & Francis for support and guidance with this kind of analysis.
Time is of the essence when it comes to research publication. It is essential to maintain a prompt publication schedule with minimal delays, to retain high-quality authors. Timeliness of publication also affects how long an article has to accrue citations within the Impact Factor window and maximize potential citations.
It’s also good practice to encourage authors to choose to publish online ahead of print, to reduce lead times between submission and publication of articles, allowing more time for citations to accrue.
Citations, reach, and impact all depend on readers being able to find your journal in the first place. Editors and editorial board members should act as ambassadors for the journal, working to raise its profile with key audiences wherever they can.
This could include journal promotion at conferences, or networking at industry events. It could mean setting up social media accounts for the journal, following the handy tips in our Social Media Guide for Journal Editors, or even working with journalists to promote the most newsworthy articles.
To increase citations of articles in your journal, it’s crucial that your authors know how to promote their own work. From sharing their 50 free e-prints, to posting about their article on social media, there are many effective strategies for self-promotion which authors should be aware of. Point authors towards Author Services, which has information on all of these tactics to help ensure their research makes an impact.
So you’ve followed the steps above, and the citations are starting to come in. How do you know if you’re doing well? This is a tricky question to answer, as citation patterns and practices vary hugely across disciplines. It’s important to remember that a citation is not necessarily an endorsement – citation counts merely demonstrate how many people are referencing your journal, so it’s important to dig deeper into the citations themselves to see how meaningful they are.
We all know Impact Factor has its pros and cons, so it can be more helpful to consider your journal’s IF ranking in its subject area, rather than looking at IF in isolation. For more information on citation-based metrics, and alternative metrics you could consider using, head back to our page on Understanding Research Metrics.
The suggestions in this post are intended as practical ways of boosting impact, reach, and therefore citations, but its worth noting that unfortunately unethical practices are not uncommon.
Potential citation-related ethical misconduct can include excessive self-citation, honorary citations, and even coercive citation elicited during peer review.
As a journal editor it’s crucial that you understand these ethical issues and know how to handle them if they arise. COPE have a range of resources on citation manipulation which may be useful references, but always speak to your Portfolio Manager at Taylor & Francis if you have concerns.