Communication Studies, Department of


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


The h-index is a metric that uses both the number of an author’s publications along with the number of times those publications have been cited by other authors in an attempt to gauge an author’s perceived academic authority in their given fields of research. Balandin and Stancliffe explain how the h-index functionally operates: “If all of a researcher’s total of N publications are listed in order of the number of times they have been citd – from most to least – then that researcher’s h-index is the number of papers (h) that have been cited h or more times.” For example, an author with eight publications and those papers have been cited 10, 10, 9, 8, 8, 3, 2, 0 the author’s h-index would be five because they have five papers that are cited five or more times. The h-index was originally developed by a Jorge Hirsch, a physicist at University of California at San Diego. He developed the index, which is sometimes called the Hirsch index or the Hirsch number, in order to determine a physicist’s academic impact on the field. Due to the simplicity of the single digit number the index is able to produce, scientific journal editors have been a main audience that have taken notice of it; Nature and Science use the index to measure research performance. Although the index was originally intended to measure the academic authority of an individual within physics, many departments and researchers outside of the sciences also use the h-index in the promotion and tenure processes.

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