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SOM Research Impact: Using Metrics Strategically

How to Use Metrics Strategically

Your Story as the Framework

Metrics are meaningless without appropriate context. Your story should always come FIRST; then add data as appropriate to support the narrative.

First write out your story in clear language, as you might tell it to a family member who asks why your work matters. How do you describe your researcher identity? Who is your audience, and what is the significance of your work to that audience? How does your work fit into the culture, values, or goals of your discipline? Your institution? 

Then carefully collect appropriate, relevant metrics that provide evidence for the value described in your story. Integrate these metrics into your story, being sure to explain clearly what they are and what they indicate.

Selecting Your Metrics

As you incorporate metrics (and other information) as evidence or indicators of your impact, you want to select and use them strategically and responsibility to support the story you are telling about that impact.

  • Relevance. The metrics should directly support the case you are trying to make. For example, the number of times your articles were cited in scholarly journals may not be evidence to support your impact in areas of public outreach.
  • Accuracy, Authority, Scope, Reliability. These go to the data source itself, whether it's Google Scholar, Web of Science, Altmetric or another source. What is being indexed or counted?  Are there duplications, missing content, or errors?  Are there other factors you should be aware of, such as the citation count differences between Web of Science and Google Scholar. 
  • Timeframe and Rankings. Include the date range or year if it matters. Include percentiles if available.
  • Use the Quantitative to Shape the Qualitative. Use the metrics to shape and inform the qualitative story you are telling about the impact of your work. It's not just the numbers, but how and why they support the narrative you are telling. You are trying to put this data into context
    • Who has cited your articles, and how?
    • Don't just include Altmetric Attention Scores, which is a fairly new metric and may not be well-known to everyone who is reading your documentation, or assume it's just "tracking tweets" therefore of little value. Highlight the news organizations that covered your research, as well as the other examples of how your work was disseminated: Wikipedia, syllabi, patents, policy papers, etc.

Adapted from UCSD and Sam Houston State


If you would like help creating metrics reports for a researcher, lab group or unit, have questions about metrics or accessing the tools in this guide, or would like guidance on metrics not discussed in this guide, please contact:

Lena Bohman, Data Services and Research Impact Librarian,


Further Reading

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