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Durham University

University Library

Maximising your Citation Impact

Below are some links and guidance to maximising the visibility and accessibility of your research output, in the interests of ensuring it is more likely to be found and read (and thus cited) by other researchers. Of course, this is in addition to producing high quality, relevant and citeable research in the first place.

Many academic publishers provide guidance to authors on maximising the visibility of their published research, in particular journal articles. We have collected some of the guidance in the links below:

Open access can increase the accessibility, discoverability, and visibility of a research output. It enables researchers to more easily share their work and promote it effectively via online media (as anyone with an internet connection is able to link through to the full text, and won't face a paywall barrier if they don't have subscription access).

Open Access Citation Advantage

Open access publishing can result in increased accessibility because:

  • Most academic outputs are supplied by publishers, and locked behind a subscription or pay-to-view barrier for most readers. Open Access removes that barrier, making it is easier to obtain, read and re-use an open access article
    • Open Access often makes use of standard re-use licences, such as Creative Commons, making it clearer for other researchers how and when they can (or cannot) re-use the content of the article (e.g. text- or data-mining, providing a translation or alternative format, use in teaching and learning activity.
  • The output is more visible and discoverable because it is available from a number of different sources – not just the publisher’s website.
    • Manuscripts in open access repositories are indexed by Google Scholar and other search engines
    • Tools like Kopernio, Unpaywall and OA Button will allow a reader to seamlessly identify and link to an open access version of an article at the point they hit a paywall barrier, without having to search for multiple repositories themselves.

Whether publishing your research open access provides a citation advantage is something that is up for debate, however – with some strong opinions on either side of the argument.

Many studies have analyzed impacts of OA on citation advantages of articles, but the results are inconsistent. These studies cover many different research disciplines, look at many potential factors and variables, and define open access in a range of ways.

It can be difficult to make exact conclusions on an articles “openness” and accessibility and how this may have impacted upon citations.

  • When defining what is meant by open access - some articles are gold open access and are published in a pure open access journal with all content in that journal being published in the same way.
  • Some articles are gold open access and are published in a subscription journal in which many of the other published articles will be available to those who have paid.
  • Some articles are green open access and are available legitimately in an institutional or subject repository (often after an embargo period).
  • Some articles are made available, legitimately or not, via a platform such as ResearchGate.
  • And many articles are available via article piracy sites.

You can read more articles on whether publishing open access yields a citation advantage at:

Science Open

Scholarly Kitchen article

SPARC Europe (list of articles updated until 2015)

Let us know what you think!

Do you have a paper that you feel has been cited or downloaded more due to it being published open access? Contact and share your thoughts and experiences.

Find out more about open access publishing here

Make sure that you, and your university and department, receive appropriate credit and attribution for your publications. It is not uncommon for publications to be incorrectly attributed to the wrong author or institution based on incorrect or ambiguous author information included in the original article.

  • Use a consistent form for you name, and consider carefully the implications of how any change of name (such as through marriage) will impact on the ability of readers and automated systems to correctly identify your publications output.
  • Consider registering for an ORCiD or ResearcherID.
  • Make sure you correctly list your author affiliation, in accordance with Durham University Author Affiliation Policy guidance.

An Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCiD), is an open source unique author identifier, used to link all publications to a single identify and avoid any ambiguity over similar names between different researchers.

Some publishers and funders are now mandating researchers to have registered an ORCiD in order to submit a manuscript for publication, or to submit a grant application for funding.

You can register for free, and it only takes 5 minutes.

Promoting your published research as widely as you can, including at academic conferences and via social media can boost the chances of it being discovered, read and potentially cited.

Remember, if sharing your publication via social media there are two things to consider:

  • Including the DOI (where available) will provide a direct link to the published article, and will be picked up in altmetric data and (where someone has access), download statistics curated by the publisher.
  • Including a url to an open access version of the article (e.g. to the output in Durham Research Online, or the DOI if a Gold Open Access option has been selected) will enable anyone to access the article without hitting a subscription or paywall barrier.


You may also find some of the quick tips in the slideshow below of interest if you are unfamiliar with Twitter.

Tips for Twitter

Selecting the most appropriate journal, which will reach the broadest and most appropriate audience for your research is essential to ensuring the maximum potential for citation of your published research.

Academics will have differing views as to how to best select the most appropriate journal, but below are some suggestions of things to consider.

Journal rankings

Are any journal level metrics considered important in your field of study? Does your department indicate any expectations as to particular "high impact" or "high prestige" journals? Is publication in any particular journal considered important for your career progression?

There are several ranking systems for journals, including:

If you are not sure what the metrics used in the above ranking systems mean, how they are calculated or how they are or should be used, see our pages on journal level metrics and responsible uses of metrics.

If someone tells you a particular journal is the "best" journal to publish in, it may also be worth asking why they consider it the "best" journal and to consider if that aligns with your priorities.

What have you cited?

Look at the published works you have cited; if you have cited a number of articles in a small number of journal titles, then it is likely you are aiming to reach a similar audience. Perhaps one of these journals may be the best journal to publish in to reach the most appropriate audience, who are most likely to read, apply and cite your research?

It may make little sense, for example, to publish in a "high impact" journal, when a journal better suited to your specific topic of research may better reach the desired audience. A "high impact" journal usually refers to a journal with a high "average number of citations per article" metric - but many of these see a highly skewed level of citation, with some articles in high impact journals receiving a very small number of citations, or none at all.

How easily are articles in the journal discovered by potential readers?

Is the journal discoverable via search engines such as Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic (i.e. is the whole journal open to be indexed by these services, or can you only find some articles if they are also available from author's profile pages and open access repositories.

Is the journal indexed via any key academic databases (e.g. Web of Science, Scopus, discipline specific databases such as Business Source, ASSIA, Historical Abstracts, PsycInfo)?

For further guidance on selecting a journal for publication, see our Choosing a Journal or Publisher web pages.

The title you select for your article can have two immediate affects on the discoverability of your research, and thus the potential for your work to be found, read and cited.

  • It can affect where it appears in results lists in search engines and academic databases, based on key words others may use to search for research on that topic.
  • It will often be the first (and sometimes only) part of the article a potential reader looks at in order to make a decision as to whether they will read the rest of the article.

Optimising your title for discoverability

Publisher's often offer guidance on structure, length and format of titles. Some simple key tips to consider might include:-

The abstract to your publication serve two purposes:

  1. Discoverability: A key source for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and often one of the default fields to search selected by researchers within academic databases.
  2. Relevance scoping: The abstract will often be used by a researcher to assess if the publication is of interest and relevance to their research question, and thus how (and if) to read further, and potentially cite the work.

Optimising your abstract

An abstract should therefore aim to be a fully self-contained description of the publication in itself, to entice the reader to read further, but not to require them to do so to understand anything contained within the abstract. It should:

  • Provide potential readers enough information to quickly assess its relevance and usefulness
  • Clearly and concisely describe the research question, methodology and conclusion where appropriate.
  • Repeat keywords and phrases describing the research topic to increase the chance of retrieval by search engines, and leap out from a results list to potential readers.
  • Recognise that not all citations require a citing author to have read your whole publication (although it would be hoped they have read more than the abstract).
  • Achieve all of this within any restrictions set by a publisher: publishers will often restrict your abstract to a word count of around 200-300 words.

You should also remember that, unless the article is open access, the abstract and title may be only parts of the article a potential reader can read, and make any assessment as to whether accessing the full text is worth the extra effort (tracking down an original author) or financial cost (paying to view or download the full text).

Further Reading

See some of the studies and guidance below for further information around abstract length and keyword frequency:

  • "abstract length significantly associates with increased citation impact" (Didegah and Thelwall, 2013)
  • "shorter abstracts ... consistently lead to fewer citations, with short sentences being beneficial only in Mathematics and Physics" (Weinberger, Evans & Allesina, 2015)
  • "abstract ratio is a significant predictor of citation count i.e. researchers can boost citations by repeated keywords in the abstract ... From the technical point of view, a phrase repetition in an abstract increases the chance of retrieval in a search engine" (Sohrabi and Iraj, 2017)
  • "journals which publish papers whose abstracts are shorter and contain more frequently used words receive slightly more citations per paper" (Letchford, Preis & Moat, 2015)
  • "The longer the article abstract, the more citations and tweets. One reason explaining why an article with a longer abstract may have more citations and social media mentions is that an extensive abstract is a more complete representation of a paper, providing citers and tweeters with more details and enabling them to make a decision about the usefulness of the work" (Didegah, Bowman and Holmberg, 2018)
  • "Clearly use key phrases in the abstract ... ensure the abstract is readable for the intended audience" Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Guidelines

Beyond social media, think about where, how and when you should publicise your forthcoming, or already published, publication. How you approach this should take into account practice within your discipline, but might include:

  • Delivering a paper at a conference, or presenting a research poster highlighting your research (for example, see the SODI DTC Poster Gallery).
  • Highlighting your article via discipline relevant mailing lists.
  • Blogging about your research, or engaging with other researchers who already blog who may then blog about your publication.
  • If there are key publications, blogs or organisations that seek to provide better access to academic research for non-academic users, a summary of your research topic and findings and link to an open access version of the publication may reach new audiences who, whilst they may not cite the work themselves in a scholarly publication, may generate impact and wider awareness of the research. This could be through established organisations, or through services aimed at researchers themselves to help communicate their research.

Things you should think about:

  • What publicity your publisher (e.g. journal, or book publisher) offers and will provide.
  • Any publicity embargo required by your publisher prior to publication.
  • What support the university's Communications and Marketing office can offer.

Your Academic Liaison Librarian

James Bisset

Senior Manager
Library Research Services

0191 334 1589

DU Library Blog

Metrics Top Tips

  1. Always use quantitative metrics together with qualitative inputs, such as expert opinion or peer review.
  2. Always use more than one quantitative metric to get the richest perspective. 
  3. If comparing entities, normalise the data to account for differences in subject area, year of publication and document type.

See our pages on Responsible Metrics for further information.