Answered By: Ken Winter
Last Updated: May 31, 2017     Views: 16

Journal Impact Factor is a measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year. The impact factor will help you evaluate a journal's relative importance, especially when you compare it to others in the same field. Not every journal will have an impact factor but there are other ways to measure impact to a field.

Impact Factor of a journal can be looked up through the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) database, part of the Web of Science subscription available at the University of Virginia. For help contact the VDOT Research Library.

The latest edition of JCR is the default option and is a year behind the current calendar year. You can search for a specific journal or subject area. Since impact factors vary widely by discipline, it is helpful to get a baseline for your discipline by searching for subject area first. Impact factor data is only available for journals indexed by Web of Science and consulting Journal Citation Reports' master journal list can confirm if a publication is indexed by JCR, which is a required for obtaining an IF.

Web of Science will provide the Journal Impact Factor for the current year, the 5 year impact factor, the immediacy index, the journal half-life, and Eigenfactor scores.

In recent years fraudulent impact factors have been produced by companies not affiliated with Journal Citation Reports, and have been used by "predatory publishers" to lure unsuspecting authors into submitting papers for publication, sometimes with a fee. 

If you are curious about how the "Impact Factor" was created and how it can be used, consider reading: The Agony and the Ecstasy — The History and the Meaning of the Journal Impact Factor by the creator of the IF, Dr. Eugene Garfield.​