Some published works have a significant impact on their own or other disciplines, while others have less influence. While there is no one way to tell what impact an article or book has had, here are some things to look at:
For a book:
- Look for reviews in scholarly publications. Search for the title of the book in library databases considered important to the relevant discipline (for example, Science Direct for the sciences or the MLA International Bibliography for literature). The existence of reviews is a good sign, but also read what the reviews say about the work.
- Find out how often the book has been cited through Google Scholar. When looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer book will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.)
- Look at the publisher. Scholarly publishers like University presses are more selective about the works they publish. However, just because a work is of high quality does not mean it necessarily has had an impact on its field.
For an article:
- Look at the journal. Is the article published in a highly regarded journal in the discipline? Usually, the best ranked journals will publish quality works from highly respected scholars in the field. However, just because something is of high quality does not mean it has made an impact on the field, so the quality of the journal should not be your only criterion. For more information on evaluating journals, take a look at Determining Whether a Journal is Significant in my Field.
- Find out how many times the article has been cited with Google Scholar or library databases Web of Science (for all disciplines but leans towards the sciences), Scopus (for all disciplines but leans towards the sciences), or HeinOnline (law). When looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer article will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.) A less popular research topic is also less likely to be cited, since fewer scholars read and write about it. Comparing one article to those on a similar topic and of a similar age will give you a clearer view.
Note: Web of Science, Scopus, HeinOnline, and Google Scholar are great ways to see connections between sources and authors, but their "cited by" lists are not comprehensive. Scopus also focuses on the natural and social sciences and has less information on humanities sources. Stick with Web of Science, Scopus, or HeinOnline if you only want to see what other scholarly articles have cited an article. Google Scholar lists more than articles that have cited a work, for example, presentations, conference proceedings, etc.
Finding Citations in Web of Science
In Web of Science, to sort results by citation frequency sort by "Times Cited - highest to lowest."
When looking at a single information record in Web of Science, you can view who has cited the record in the "Times Cited" box in the upper right.
Finding Citations in Scopus
In Scopus, to sort results by citation frequency find the "Sort on" option at the upper right of the results page and select "Cited by."
When looking at a single information record in Scopus, you can view who has cited the record in the "Cited by" box in the upper right.
Finding Citations in HeinOnline
For law and political science, to sort results in HeinOnline by citation, choose "Number of Times Cited by Articles." To see the articles that have cited the record, click "Cited by" to the right of the record.