What the H!? What Is an H-Index, and What Does It Say about Authors Anyway?

Guest post by Monica Moore, Scholarly Communications Librarian, and Cheri Smith, Psychology Librarian, Hesburgh Libraries.


As a member of the scholarly community, you may occasionally hear people mention the term “h-index.” The h-index is a number assigned to individual scholars that measures both their scholarly output and scholarly impact. It is a calculation based on the number of papers a scholar has published, and how often those publications have been cited. The “h” stands for Dr. Jorge E. Hirsch, a physicist from UCSD, who, in 2005, recommended using this calculation to measure impact.

This is the formula for calculating an index:


However, the easiest way to understand it is to think about actual examples. If an author has published 20 papers, and 10 of those papers have been cited 10 times, then the author has an h-index of 10. If an author has published 100 papers, and all of them have been cited at least 100 times, then the author has an h-index of 100.


How is the h-index used?


Many universities, including Notre Dame, use the h-index as a part of the promotion and tenure process. It is most heavily used in the sciences and social sciences, as these are the disciplines that are most likely to generate publications that are frequently cited. Works of fiction, poetry, or art are not typically cited, so their impact should be measured in other ways. If you are in a science or social science field, it is a good idea to keep track of how often people are citing your work. You can set up a profile for yourself in Google Scholar, Web of Science or Scopus, and attach it to your ORCiD so that your publications are disambiguated from other publications from authors with names that are similar to your own. This way you can easily help colleagues, employers, or potential employers see the measurable impact you’ve had in your discipline.


Where can you find the h-index for an author?


In order to calculate an author’s h-index accurately, you would have to have a list of all of the author’s publications and know the number of citations to each of those publications.

There are several resources you can use to make this easier: Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. While Google Scholar is a freely available resource which indexes content on the open web, Web of Science and Scopus are library subscription indexes that are available to all University of Notre Dame faculty, staff, and students. Google Scholar requires the individual researcher to set up a profile to track their publications and calculate their h-index, while Web of Science and Scopus provide a report based on the author name entered.


Web of Science: h-index


Let’s say we’re interested in finding the h-index for Jane Goodall. In Web of Science, we can do an author search for her publications, using the Author dropdown menu from the Web of Science search page, and find the Jane Goodall that we’re looking for by disambiguating by an affiliated organization or through another author identifier such as an ORCiD. Once we’ve done that, we can click on the “Create Citation Report” option on the right-hand side of the screen to get her h-index:



Scopus: h-index


In Scopus, we would use a similar process for finding the h-index of an author: from the Search menu, we would search for the author name, disambiguate by organization or another author ID, and click on the author name details to bring up their h-index information:



You can see that the h-index in Scopus is different from what is in Web of Science. Why is this?

Title lists, subject area, and time period coverage can vary between these two resources, which will affect the h-index calculation. For an overview of the differences between Scopus and Web of Science, you can view this guide from Boston College, or learn more about the Web of Science content coverage policy or the Scopus content policy.

Another variable to be aware of is the author name itself, and any variations associated with it. While things like affiliation can help to disambiguate author names, it’s always better to search by some type of author identifier if one exists for that author. The primary example of an author identifier that is system-neutral is the ORCiD. Both Web of Science and Scopus allow for searching by the author’s ORCiD, and both Scopus and Web of Science allow for the exclusion of self-citations in articles before calculating the h-index.


Google Scholar: h-index


Unlike Web of Science and Scopus, Google Scholar requires the author to set up a profile in order to track the author’s h-index; however, you can check to see if one is available for an author in Google Scholar by searching for their profile from Google Scholar, as shown below:



In the above example, we can see that there is a profile for “jane goodall,” but not the same “jane goodall” that we saw in Web of Science or Scopus. If it had existed, we might have seen another, different h-index number since the pool of publications and citation information could also be different from what is used by Web of Science and Scopus.


Things to consider…


The h-index is actually just one method of measuring scholarly impact collectively known as citation indicators, and it’s not without its critics.  The difference in title coverage for the tools that generate the h-index number is one of the biggest issues, along with the need for researchers to maintain and keep up with their publication profiles in Google Scholar or monitor their citation analysis information in Scopus or Web of Science. Retracted papers that are still cited and self-citations can distort the h-index unless these are not excluded in the calculation of it. The article “Multiple versions of the h-index: Cautionary use for formal academic purposes,” provides a good overview of these and other questions related to the h-index.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the h-index is that is just one measure of scholarly activity and impact. For more information on h-index concerns and other methods of measurement, check out this information at ImpactStory, and stay tuned for another blog entry on Altmetrics!


New Research Tool Brought to You by Hesburgh Libraries

Guest post by Mandy Havert, Digital Research and Outreach Librarian.


The Hesburgh Libraries recently purchased access to Scopus which delivers a comprehensive overview of the world’s research output in the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and the arts and humanities. The database allows users to make better research decisions, find leading experts and potential partners and maintain a competitive edge.

The Hesburgh Libraries will conduct workshops on Scopus which are open to all faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students.

After an orientation to Scopus, you should be able to answer these questions:

  1. Scopus: What is it? and why would I use it instead of Google Scholar or PubMed?
  2. Can I easily find my h-index in Scopus?
  3. What are the best practices for using Scopus to give my research a boost?
  4. How can I find potential collaborators using Scopus?
  5. How can I use Author Profiles to help me showcase my research?
  6. How will PlumX Metrics on Scopus help me tell the story of my research?

Three 1-hour sessions are offered October 24, 2018. Each session will have a slightly different focus: Engineering, Science, Social Sciences & Humanities. Choose a session that fits your interests or a session that fits your schedule.

  • 10:30 am (202 Nieuwland) Science focus
  • 1:00 pm (231 Hesburgh Library) Social Sciences & Humanities focus
  • 2:30 pm (231 Hesburgh Library) Engineering focus

Unable to attend one of these workshops? You can find tutorials on the Scopus Website: https://service.elsevier.com/app/overview/scopus/

Prefer to talk with a librarian about Scopus? Contact your subject librarian today to ask for more information.

Contact Mandy Havert at asklib@nd.edu for more information.

What You Need to Know Now about the New Hesburgh Library Spaces

In this guest post, Mandy Havert, Digital Research and Outreach Librarian, encourages graduate students to take advantage of the new spaces at the Hesburgh Library.

Four newly renovated spaces have opened in Hesburgh Library since April 2018. What’s there and how do you use them?

First and second floor collaboration hubs opened in the northwest corner of Hesburgh Library and the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship and a portion of our Technology Row opened on the second floor, east side.

Reimagined for multiple uses, you’ll find everything from group study and consultation spaces to multimedia classrooms and a data visualization lab. Come visit and see what is on offer.

  • Current floor maps available at: https://library.nd.edu/hesburgh-floor-maps
  • Room reservation status monitors display the availability of rooms that may be reserved for classes, meetings or group study. The information displayed is one-directional and does not update from the monitor itself.
    A tip to share: Those who use the rooms on a walk-in basis need to be prepared to move for those who have booked or scheduled the room via the online booking calendar system.

First Floor Collaboration Hub

Designed with our campus partners in mind, the spaces are prioritized for work with academic partners on campus, like the University Writing Center, which hosts Sunday-Thursday writing consultations in rooms 130 and 132.

First Floor Consultation Room

The first floor Collaboration Hub includes work tables and soft seating for individual and group study. Along the south wall, we shelve the materials for the Extensive Reading classes, materials used in foreign language instruction. Additionally:

  • Consultation rooms may be reserved through the “book a group study room” link on library.nd.edu by campus partners or students for activities such as group study, tutorials, or consultations. NOTE: Minimum occupancy: two persons. Rooms may be reserved up to two weeks in advance. Maximum seating capacity varies by room.
  • Videoconferencing rooms – Intended for interviews, webinars, conference calls and other similar purposes, advance booking is required. The rooms are kept locked and the key maybe borrowed from Circulation Desk when reserved time approaches. NOTE: Maximum capacity 2 persons. 
  • Classroom 125 – Campus partners have booking priority for this space. Walk-in use is allowed when the room is not reserved. Reservation requests for this space may be made using the Event and Meeting Space site: https://library.nd.edu/room-reservations
  • Mobile monitors – First-come, first-served, these monitors may be used wherever they’re needed in the library. Please return them to the pillars outside of Classroom 125 so that others can find them when you’re done. An additional mobile monitor can be checked out at the Circulation Desk


Videoconferencing Room

Second Floor Collaboration Hub

The space on the second floor, northwest corner of Hesburgh Library is another collaborative space that is home to instruction rooms, group study rooms available for walk-in use, study nooks, and videoconferencing rooms. The space is also outfitted with soft seating and open carrel-style tables for your individual or group study needs. To serve student study and research needs, the classrooms are left open for walk-in access. While this walk-in use is encouraged, scheduled use of the rooms for instruction or meetings take priority. You may be asked to leave the space when the rooms are booked.

A featured space in the second floor collaboration hub are the study nooks. These open but partitioned spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are intended for groups of more than one person. Frosted glass walls function as whiteboard space.


Study Nooks


Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship

Formerly located on the first floor of Hesburgh Library, the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship has moved and expanded in its new home on the northeast corner of the second floor of the building. The space includes familiar features, such as a dual-monitor computer lab, large monitors in the rooms and public areas, and research consultations and workshops with experts on digital scholarship tools and techniques, such as mapping, data analysis, and text mining and analysis. One of the classrooms now offers the ability to capture lectures, and a new data visualization lab has been added. The 3D printing, large format printing, new Legacy Technology Collection, and equipment lending services are consolidated into one Specialty Technology Room. Please see the Technology Lending link on library.nd.edu to learn about equipment you may borrow for your work here at the University. See space layout and room location information at https://library.nd.edu/floor/hesburgh-2nd-floor. Questions? Email cds@nd.edu.

Technology Row

Technology row is a workspace on the second floor that will open in two phases. Phase 1 is already open and provides workstations for use by members of the university community. Here, you can get work done and use other services located nearby.

The OIT Outpost Desk, formerly located by the Ask Us Desk on first floor has moved to the second floor. This dedicated service desk is located across from the grand staircase to serve you with your OIT Helpdesk needs, including diagnosing software installation, network and printing problems.

A new service called Media Corps has launched to help students in classes with multimedia assignments. The Media Corps Coaches are trained to offer peer-to-peer help with capturing, editing and producing media projects.

Contact Mandy Havert at asklib@nd.edu for more information..

Are you enjoying the new spaces in the Hesburgh Library? What is your favorite place to work or study on campus? Leave a comment below!