What is Journal Citation Reports?

By | November 9, 2015
What is Journal Citation Reports?

Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is a resource tool published annually by Thomson Reuters (formerly ISI) to provide citation and publication data of academic journals in the science and social science fields.

For each year, there are two editions:

Science Edition – Over 8,000 journals in >170 subject categories

Social Sciences Edition - Over 2,600 journals in >55 subject categories

JCR covers journals indexed in the ”Science Citation Index Expanded” (SCI) and the ”Social Sciences Citation Index” (SSCI), the 2 journal citation indexes in “Web of Science” (WoS). However, JCR does not provide citation figures for journals indexed in the ”Arts and Humanities Citation Index” (A&HCI).

How to access JCR?

Access Journal Citation Report via this link: Journal Citation Reports

Note that JCR is also accessible as part of Web of Science – select “Journal Citation Reports” from the tool bar at the top of the screen


Select the edition you want (“Science” or “Social Sciences” Edition). Then, select your search option:

  • If you already have a title in mind, select “Search for a specific journal” to view the citation data and impact values of this journal.
  • If you want to identify top or influential journals within a subject discipline, select “View a group of journal by subject category”. Each journals in JCR is assigned to at least one subject category. Some journals appear in two or three categories.

Refer to the quick links under the “JCR search guides & tutorial” box on the right to access the search guide and tutorial to learn more about using JCR.

How to identify top journals in a subject discipline?

Aftering logging in JCR (or from the “Welcome” page), select your desired edition and year. Then choose to view a group of journals by subject category.


To select more than one subject category, use the “Ctrl” key. Then select “View journal data”. A list of journals in your selected categories will then be displayed.

Sort the list by “impact factor” so that journals with the highest impact factors will appear at the top.

What are “Impact Factor” (IF) and other JCR metrics?


Impact Factor (IF) is the average number of times articles from the journal published in the past two years have been cited in the reference year.For example, the IF for 2010 for Energy & Environment Scienceis:Cites in 2010 to items published in 2008 and 2009————————————————Number of items published in 2008 and 2009= 1575 / 166 = 9.488

Other JCR metrics:

  • 5-year Impact Factor – uses the cites in the reference year to items published in the past 5 years
  • Total Cites – shows the total number of citations to the journal in the reference year
  • Immediacy Index – shows how quickly articles in a journal are cited
  • Cited Half-life – tells you the publication history or change in format of a journal

Click a journal name in JCR to view detailed citation data of the journal.


Quartile Score:

Quartile Score

The value of an Impact Factor itself does not show you the relative importance of a journal. Instead, you have to compare the Impact Factors of journals in the same field to identify a journal’s impact.

The Quartile in Category or the Quartile Score, on the other hand, shows the relative location of a journal along the range of an Impact Factor distribution.

To view the Quartile Score of a journal, from a journal record, click on the button under “Journal Information”. Then you will see a table showing the ranking of this journal in its subject catagories based on Impact Factor.


The journal “Fuel Cells”, for example, ranks 18th out of 79 in the “Energy & fuels” category. It falls into the highest quartile (Q1) in this category and is among the top 25% of the IF distribution. In the “Electrochemistry” category, this journal ranks 8th out of 26 journals, a mid-high position, Q2, which donotes between top 50% and top 25% of the IF distribution.

Q3 denotes a middle-low position (top 75% to top 50%), and Q4 bottom position (bottom 25% of the IF distribution).

Some limitations of JCR Impact Factor

JCR Impact Factor has a long history of over 30 years and is still the most popularly used journal measure. However, it has its limitations:

- Limited number of journals indexed in Web of Science – Journals in A&HCI not covered; Some subject fields & non-English journals poorly covered
- Includes journal self-citation (i.e. citation by articles in the same journals)
- “Non-citable” items are not counted as published items, but citations in these items (even to the same journal) are counted. IF calculation can be easily manipulated
- Considers only the number of citations, but neglects different citation behavior among subject disciplines (e.g. publication frequency, length of reference list, number of authors)

You should therefore realize these limitations and use IF with caution.