Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Metrics: Limitations

Limitations of Bibliometrics

Although bibliometrics are objective, quick to generate and relatively easy to understand, they are not without their limitations including:

  • Bibliometrics were initially based on the model of publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals. This is not the norm for many disciplines particularly in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
  • Citation patterns vary from subject to subject, for example, an article from a top medical journal might be cited on average 11 times in its first year of publication, whereas an article from a top law journal might be cited on average only once in its first year of publication.
  • Only a small proportion of published research is covered by sources such as the Scopus and the Web of Science.
  • Bibliometrics can be manipulated through self-citing or citing colleagues.
  • Citations to a paper may not reflect its quality so bad papers as well as good ones can be highly cited.
  • Metrics do not tend to account for the age of a researcher.

Limitations of Altmetrics

Altimetrics share a number of the limitations of bibliometrics. E.g. bad research as well as good research can generate a lot of attention, the coverage of the sources is not comprehensive, and altmetrics can be manipulated.

Key Points to Remember

  • Only compare like with like. E.g. researchers or journals in the same discipline.
  • Do not rely on a single source, such as Scopus, because the content of each source varies.
  • Bibliometrics and altmetrics should only be used in combination with qualitative measures such as peer review.