Some published works have a significant impact on their own or other disciplines; others have less influence. Although there is no one way to determine how much impact an article or book has had, here are some things to look at:
For a book
- Look for reviews in scholarly publications. Search for the title of the book in library databases considered important to the relevant discipline (for example, PsycINFO for psychology or the MLA International Bibliography for literature). The existence of reviews is a good sign, but also read what the reviews say about the work.
- Find out how often the book has been cited through Google Scholar. When looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer book will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.) See the Who Has Cited a Work DIY page for information about how to use these tools.
- Look at the publisher. Scholarly publishers like university presses are more selective about what they publish. However, just because a work is of high quality doesn't necessarily mean that it has had an impact on its field.
For an article
- Look at the journal. Is the article published in a highly regarded journal in the discipline? Usually, the best ranked journals will publish quality works from highly respected scholars in the field. However, just because something is of high quality does not mean it has made an impact on the field, so the quality of the journal should not be your only criterion.
- Find out how many times the article has been cited with Google Scholar. When looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer article will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.) A less popular research topic is also less likely to be cited, since fewer scholars read and write about it. Comparing one article to those on a similar topic and of a similar age will give you a clearer view.
- Look at the PlumX Metrics information in the results list when you use Multi-Search. This is not comprehensive but gives you some additional information. While Web of Science looks only at scholarly publication and Google Scholar adds presentations and conference proceedings, PlumX also includes "alternative metrics" also known as "Altmetrics." This means that PlumX will include how often a publication is referenced in specific places online such as Twitter, Goodreads, Mendeley, and Wikipedia. Remember to look to see what is said about the article or book when it is mentioned; it could be that many people tweeted about it criticizing it.
Note: The "cited by" lists in Web of Science and Google Scholar are great ways to see connections between sources and authors, but they are not comprehensive. Google Scholar lists not only articles, but also other source types like presentations and conference proceedings.