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Legal Research and Writing: Metrics


The use of research metrics helps you to have some sense of the research impact of a journal in a particular discipline,  to identify top-rated author or important research on a particular topic, and to identify the number of times an article was being cited. All these information helps you to determine the use of materials for your research and writing, regarding their representativeness and trustworthiness.

This page will talk briefly on three aspects of metrics: journal metrics, author metrics and article metrics. Visit the Libraries’ Research Metrics@HKUL for more details.


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Based on bibliometric data, the frequency with which the “average article” in a journal has been cited in a designated year is measured. In general, there are two types of journal metrics – journal impact factor and journal rankings. The calculated result regards as the journal metrics that reflected the impact or ranking of a journal in a particular year (normally the previous year).

Want to know more on different journal metrics and how they are calculated? Visit the Libraries’ Research Metrics @HKUL on Journal Level Metrics


InCites Journal Citation Reports (JCR)

Provided by Thomson Reuters, and associated with Web of Science, the InCites Journal Citation Reports offers annual citation data and publication information regarding journals under the science and social science fields. JCR has also been emerging as an important indicator for law journals, which is commonly used by our teachers and researchers in HKU. Under JCR, relevant indexes used to indicate law journals are the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI).

Want to know more on InCites Journal Citation Reports? Visit their LibGuide by clicking here


Washington & Lee Law Journal Rankings is another useful journal metrics tool in law, on scoring rankings of different law journals regarding different subjects. Developed and maintained by the Law Library at Washington and Lee University School of Law, it aims to serve as a resource to identify law journals on various subjects, impact factor and other criteria, so as to assist in comparing different journals. Here, you can search by setting journal criteria (e.g. which subject of law) and ranking criteria (e.g. journal impact factor or number of cites). 

Gathering data on author citation, author metrics help to identify the important works of an author being highly cited by others reflecting a high impact in the field. The commonly used method in calculating author metrics is the use of Hirsch index (h-index), introduced by J.E. Hirsch in 2005. In general, the calculation of “h-index refers to the h number of papers with at least h citations”.

Want to know more about author metrics? Visit the Libraries’ Research Metrics @HKUL on Author Level Metrics for more details.


In law, HeinOnline ScholarRank is a useful tool to obtain author rankings. For instances, it includes “Top 250 authors” and “Most cited author”. Other types of rankings can also be found, such as “Most cited article” and “Top 50 articles”. You may visit their LibGuide on how to use this tool in facilitating your research.

Similar to the other two aspect of metrics, article metrics calculated the article impact with article citations within a particular year. Commonly used platforms in retrieving article level metrics are Web of Science and Scopus. The Libraries’ Research Metrics @HKUL on Article Level Metrics provides a good indication on how they work and where you can find them. 


At the same time, you may find some alternative metrics with high diversity and openness, which are different form traditional metrics. For example, the application of Altmetrics which calculate how many times an article was cited or mentioned on social media platform. Want to know more about it? Visit the Libraries’ Research Metrics@HKUL on Altmetrics.