I recently used a database called ISI Web of Knowledge to create journal reports to identify five important journals in the field of criminology. I was interested in how this information could be used to enhance a criminology research guide, and how could it be problematic?
Here were 5 criminology journals I identified:
CRIMINOLOGY 4.380 Impact Factor
CRIMINAL JUSTICE 3.562
BRIT JOURNAL CRIMINOLOGY 1.612
These reports can significantly enhance a research guide because the impact factor and other metrics give a good idea of which journals are being cited most frequently, most recently, and by the most influential sources.
When dozens of journals are currently being produced for a particular discipline, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to identify a core set of titles solely by personal knowledge and qualitative factors, and thus the quantitative metrics become necessary.
But they do not come without their shortcomings. Metrics based on citation are not perfect, especially in domains other than the hard sciences, and do not always reflect a positive endorsement. (An author might cite another to disagree with his or her argument).
In addition, ISI strongly favors journals in English language with an international reputation, so the output of other countries is often underrepresented, even when they may in fact be among the most important journals in a particular discipline. Thus, a combination of impact factors and more qualitative evaluations is recommended.