Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Measuring Scholarly Metrics, edited by Gordon R. Mitchell (Lincoln, NE: Oldfather Press, 2011). Copyright © 2011 Scott Church. Distributed under Creative Commons license.


In a recent issue of Human Communication Research, Thomas Hugh Feeley notes, “journal impact rankings provide objective data for tenure, promotion, and, possibly, grant review committees on the quality of scholars’ work.” Though the metric is widely regarded as the conventional measure to assess the influence of a journal in both the social and physical sciences, many doubts regarding its effectiveness have been raised. This essay assesses the effectiveness of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) as a scholarly metric. After first considering the metric's history and developing a working definition of JIF (part one), next I delineate its strengths and weaknesses as a measurement tool of assessing journal prominence (part two). Then in part three, I argue that the amount of credence placed upon the metric by tenure and promotion committees needs to be critically examined, because these decisions are often based on the flawed and biased data provided by the JIF. The closing section addresses the appropriateness of the JIF for evaluating scholarship in the field of Communication.

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