5 Essential Research Metrics Every Education Researcher Should Know

By: Samantha Wilairat, MLIS (@SKWILAIRAT)

Telling the “story” of your research can be a daunting task. The good news is, there’s way more to your tale than your H-index. Take a look at these five essential, freely available research metrics that can elevate your impact. Bookmark this post for when you next need to write about the influence of your scholarship. In the meantime, consider adding these metrics to your CV next to your citations.

1.  Relative Citation Ratio – RCR

What it measures: An article’s influence compared to a cohort of NIH-funded publications in the same area of research published in the same year. An RCR >1 shows a more significant influence than the median NIH-funded paper.

How it’s calculated: Using a co-citation network.

Drawbacks: Your article has to be findable in PubMed, and older than two years.

Why you should use it:

  • Easy to interpret (Ex: My paper has an RCR of 2.0, meaning it has received twice as many citations as the median NIH-funded paper in its field).
  • Developed by NIH for biomedical research

How to find it: Use the free NIH RCR calculator, iCite.

2.  Field Citation Ratio – FCR

What it measures: An article’s influence compared to articles published in the same year, and in the same field of research.

How it’s calculated: The number of citations your article has received is divided by the average number of citations received by articles of the same age and in the same field of research.

Why you should use it:

  • Easy to interpret (Ex: My paper has an FCR of 5.1, meaning it has received 5.1 times more citations than average within my field of research).
  • Normalized to your specific field of research

Drawbacks: Your article must be older than two years.

How to find it: Search for your article in Dimensions (free or paid version). Hover over the citations button below your article title to view your FCR.

3.  Altmetric Attention Score

What it measures: The amount of attention an article has received online from various sources ranging from news outlets to Twitter to Wikipedia.

How it’s calculated: A weighted count of the amount of online attention received. Each attention source is weighted differently according to the relative reach of the source.

Why you should use it:

  • A great way to easily track who is discussing your research outside of academia, and where.
  • The number of citations an article receives only tells a small part of the story. Your research may be making a significant impact outside of academia, and that story can’t be told using citation counts. Altmetric attention is a great alternative.

Drawbacks: The “score” itself doesn’t tell a convincing story. Dig into where your article is receiving attention to demonstrate the influence of your work.

How to find it:

  • Download the free plugin, altmetric bookmarklet.
  • Navigate to your article via the journal’s website
  • Open the altmetric bookmarklet under your browser bookmarks to view your score and sources.

4.  Libraries that Own Your Book

Have you written or edited a book or book chapter? Did you know you can easily find the total number of libraries around the world that check out your work?

What it measures: The number of libraries worldwide that own a physical or digital copy of your book.

How it’s calculated: A count of libraries that have your book title in their collections.

Why you should use it:

  • There isn’t a great way to measure citation counts of books and book chapters, so take a look at the number of libraries (and their locations) to see the reach of your book or book chapter.
  • Could indicate global or regional interest in your work.

Drawbacks: Not normalized by field – it’s a raw count, so it is more difficult to compare the performance of your book with others in the same area of scholarship.

How to find it:

  • Visit WorldCat.org
  • Search and locate your work.
  • Under “find a copy at a library,” toggle to “all libraries” to see the number of libraries around the world that own your book (and their locations).

5. M-index (like the H-index, only better)

You’ve probably heard of the H-index, a widely used author metric to measure the productivity and influence of an author. It is next to impossible for an early career researcher to have a high H-index. This is where the M-index comes into play.

What it measures: Productivity and impact of a researcher’s publications, normalized for career length.

How it’s calculated: The H-index (h papers with at least h citations) divided by the number of years since your first publication.

Why you should use it:

  • It allows a more fair comparison between researchers with different career lengths.


  • Assumes research activity has been ongoing since your first publication (i.e., doesn’t account for leaves of absence or years you were not producing scholarship).
  • Just like the H-index, it still values quantity over quality. For example, if you have one publication with over 100 citations but have yet to publish another paper, your M-index will not rise above 1.

How to find it:

  1. Claim your Google Scholar profile.
  2. Search for your profile on Google Scholar.
  3. Locate your H-index on the right-hand side of your profile page.
  4. Divide your H-index by the years since your first publication.

Still trying to figure out how to communicate the story of your research? Contact your hospital or university librarian for additional tips and tricks, or find me on Twitter.

About the authors: Samantha Wilairat, MLIS, is a medical librarian who lives in California. She currently works as Research Communications Librarian at Stanford University’s Lane Medical Library. Twitter: @skwilairat

Editor: Michael A. Gisondi (@MikeGisondi), MD – Stanford University

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The University of Ottawa. For more details on our site disclaimers, please see our ‘About’ page