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Scholarly Metrics in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Home

Defining Scholarly Impact

Scholarly Metrics and Scholarly Impact

Being able to demonstrate the impact of their research is essential to the success of faculty and researchers in academic settings. But what exactly is impact? It turns out there is no universal definition for research impacts. A traditional view is that the impact of an article or a book is strictly about its influence on other researcher, often as measured by the number of citations in scholarly literature. Internationally, there has been a gradual shift toward a broader, more inclusive perspective on impact. For instance, the UK Research Councils declares: 

Impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy.  

In the same vein, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences states: 

Research impact refers to the influence scholarly and creative enquiry has upon wider society, intended as well as unintended, immediate as well as protracted. It includes the influence such research has upon future researchers within the discipline as well as in other disciplines and on public policy, quality of life, social cohesion, business innovation, the environment, artistic and creative practices, commercial and economic activity, administrative and institutional development, and political and cultural understanding.  

Outline of Broader Impact

This guide will adopt this broader definition of research impact, because it accommodates the diversity of humanities scholarship better. In the following, we will first introduce a wide range of indicators for research impact, before describing citation metrics as well as altmetrics in more details.  

Type of Imact Indicators
Research and Scholarship

Citation metrics 


Prestige of publisher for one’s book  

Presentations at national and international conferences 

Citations in grant applications 


Prizes and awards 

Post-publication peer-review (book reviews, dedicated symposia) 

Juried exhibitions and performances 

Student Learning 

Number of experiential learning/research opportunities for students 

Quality of experiential learning/research opportunities for students 

Integration of research as a learning outcome in courses 


Revenue opportunities and cost savings in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors resulting from research applied in practice 

Income derived from patents, patent licensing, copyright and trademarks 

Advisory roles and board memberships 

Consulting contracts 

Society and culture 

Number of partnerships between researchers and community groups 

Quality of partnerships between researchers and community groups 

Requests for consultancy/advice from community groups 

Media coverage of research (newspapers/TV/Online) 

Requests for media appearances 

Engagement of the public at events 

Research-related social media 

Public use of research-based web resources on social and cultural issues 

Practice and policy 

Invitations to participate as an expert witness, an advisor, on an expert panel or committee 

Citations in government documents 

Consulting for governments or think-tanks 

Commissioned reports 

Adapted from Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2014) and S. Konkiel (2016) 


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