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Research impact guide: Citation patterns

Citation patterns

It is important to remember that citation patterns vary widely between disciplines and across types of publications, as the image below shows:

Image source: Impact of the Social Sciences

This means that for disciplines where book or conference paper publishing is more common, such as in the humanities and social sciences or engineering and the applied sciences, citation patterns will look very different to a discipline that relies more heavily on journal articles.  

For this reason, it is not possible to compare citation counts across disciplines and care should be taken when making comparisons within disciplines.

There are three main tools to generate graphs of your citation patterns including:

These tools let you create a profile, saving you time when reviewing your citation patterns.

These graphs, taken from Web of Science, show two different aspects of publishing patterns:

  • Published items in each year shows peaks and troughs which can reflect the research cycle. This can help you show your productivity
  • Citations in each year can show that your work is continuing to grow in influence


Citation patterns are closely aligned to citation counts. They can be useful in showing how the overall impact of your research is behaving over time.

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