Research Impact Guide

This guide serves as a starting point to understand, gather, and communicate indicators of research impact.


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Erin Owens
NGL 223D
ORCID: 0000-0001-9520-9314

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Telling Your Story

Your Story as the Framework

Metrics are meaningless without appropriate context. Your story should always come FIRST; then add data as appropriate to support the narrative.

First write out your story in clear language, as you might tell it to a family member who asks why your work matters. How do you describe your researcher identity? Who is your audience, and what is the significance of your work to that audience? How does your work fit into the culture, values, or goals of your discipline? Your institution? 

Then carefully collect appropriate, relevant metrics that provide evidence for the value described in your story. Integrate these metrics into your story, being sure to explain clearly what they are and what they indicate.

Aspects to Consider

  • Authorship - What are the norms in your field, and what is valued? Is this a sole authorship or a collaboration, and why is that important? Is there significance in the identity of your collaborators, e.g., bringing interdisciplinary expertise, a weighty disciplinary reputation, etc.? What are the practices in your discipline for author byline order, and how do those norms apply to this work? Does being the first author or the last author indicate greater significance? (If your narrative may be read by someone with less familiarity of your field, they will likely need this explanation, because interpretations of byline order differ between fields.) 
  • Journal - Is it the official journal of an important scholarly association in your field? Why is it significant that your work is in this journal specifically, not just based on metrics, but based on its content scope, mission, history, longevity, reputation/status, etc. Who is the readership for this journal? How is that readership important for reaching your target audience?
  • Open access - If your work was published in an open-access journal, how does that fit with the values of your discipline and/or your institution? What were your reasons or goals for publishing OA, and what have been the outcomes so far?
  • Citations - How has attention to your work changed over time? Regardless of total citation counts, have your later works garnered more citations than your early works, showing an increase in attention to your work over time? 
  • Geographic location of views, downloads, and other attention metrics - How national or international is your reach? Has international attention to your work increased over time? How does your work becoming increasingly international fit with the goals of your work or the values and goals of your discipline or institution?
  • % of citations per discipline / subject area - How is interdisciplinary influence important to your goals? Has your work received increasing attention from other disciplines over time? 
  • Reproducibility - To what extent has your work been proven reproducible, reproduced, and/or validated by other researchers?
  • Teaching impact - Has your work been adopted in course syllabi, been cited in a textbook, or otherwise influenced teaching in your field?
  • Practice and policy impact - Has your work informed, influenced, or changed practice or policy, whether within your field, an organization, public/society, etc.? How does this align with your goals? Does it support the larger values or goals of your institution? 
  • Values in your field - What values are foundational to your discipline, and how has your work demonstrated your commitment to those values? One example might be openness; if your field values openness, you could demonstrate it by publishing in open-access journals and/or sharing your research data in an open repository for others to reuse. Or your field might value collaboration, and you can highlight your work with other researchers, institutions, non-academic organizations, etc. To identify the values your field prioritizes, you might explore the mission and values statements from key professional associations.
  • Research agendas and "roadmaps" - If a professional association in your field has defined a framework or agenda to guide research in needed areas, then explain how your work relates to that framework and how you are furthering the research agenda that your discipline has identified as important. You might also relate your work to an agenda larger than just your field, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.

Data Visualizations

In addition to specific metrics, consider what data visualizations might be helpful. Bar charts, pie charts, geographical maps, network maps?


Seek strong anecdotes to accompany numbers, especially with altmetrics--for example, share one thoughtful and substantive tweet about your work from an important peer in your field. Anecdotes help to illustrate quality of attention, rather than quantity alone.

Frameworks and Processes

The following frameworks may be helpful in deciding how to compile and communicate a well-rounded array of metrics.

Slides: Research Impact

These are the slides from a presentation given by the Scholarly Communication Librarian at the SHSU ORSP Scholarly Innovation Summit (fall 2022).

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