Scholarly Impact Challenge

This guide contains 10 challenges for scholars to better understand and manage their online scholarly presence, as well as the impact and reach of their research.

Introduction to the H-Index

This current challenge focuses on on just one metric that measures impact, the h-index.

Created in 2005 by physicist Jorge Hirsch, the h-index is intended to be a measure of both the productivity and the impact of an individual author. A scholar has an index of h when they have published h papers, each of which has been cited at least h times. (Sugimoto & Lariviere, Measuring Research : What Everyone Needs to Know, OUP, pp. 100-101, 2018).

The h-index is hotly contested and known to be problematic, and yet it is commonly used and a metric you're likely to encounter without even seeking it out.

H-Index representation image

(H-Index Representation | Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 3.0)

Find Your h-Index

Follow the instructions below to locate an h-index for the same author in Web of Science, and Google Scholar.

If your publications have been indexed in both places, we recommend that you search for your own name. If not, search for a scholar whose work you have used in your research.

Here's how to do it: 

Web of Science

  1. Click Web of Science above
  2. In the search box, type in the author's name, select Author from the dropdown menu, and click Search
  3. Perform author search, then click Create Citation Report near the top right of the results page

Google Scholar

  1. Click Google Scholar above
  2. If you are searching for yourself, you can simply navigate directly to the Google Scholar profile you created last week. Your h-index will appear in the box on the right-hand side of the screen.
  3. If you are searching for a different author, in the main search box, enter author's name or search by article title. In the search results page, click on the author's name to view their Google Scholar profile (your chosen author will need to have a public Google Scholar profile in order for you to view their Google Scholar h-index).

(Note: Scopus, a database not available at EMU, also lists an h-index for authors.)


Reflect on what you find:

  • Does the h-index stay the same or vary across these databases? If the score changes, can you figure out why?

  • What strengths do you see in the h-index as a measure of productivity and impact? What limitations do you see?

  • If asked to provide an h-index as part of an evaluation process, how would you proceed?

Key Takeaways:

  • The h-index always depends upon the data source from which it was calculated. When reporting an h-index, you will always want to indicate the data source. In fact, if you look at some scholars' CV's, you'll notice that they include multiple h-index numbers (ex. Google Scholar h-index and Web of Science h-index).

  • The Google Scholar h-index will often be higher than the h-index from other sources. This is because Google Scholar is more inclusive than Web of Science, indexing many more types of material than peer-reviewed research articles.

  • The h-index inherently favors scholars with longer careers, who have had the time both to publish more work and to accrue more citations.

  • The h-index will not adequately represent the work of scholars when some of their publications are not indexed in the data source being used.

  • The h-index for scholars from different fields cannot be compared due to the publishing norms for different disciplines. You can't compare the h-index for a historian with the h-index for a physicist and draw any meaningful conclusions, for example.


Activity 1 : Find your own h-index in Web of Science and Google Scholar.

If your works are indexed in Web of Science, find your h-index in that database. You can do the same with Google Scholar, just make sure you have created your Google Scholar profile to access this information.

Activity 2 : If you don't have an h-index from either of these sources, explore the h-index of key scholars in your field.

License Statement

Content for this challenge of the Scholarly Impact Challenge has been derived from the University of Michigan's Research Impact Challenge, which is licensed CC BY 4.0.