Examining the Differences between Web of Science and Scopus

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This write-up examines the differences between Web of Science and Scopus, two prominent journal databases used extensively in academic and research settings. I will also add my own professional experience in dealing with both databases.

These databases are instrumental in disseminating scholarly articles across various disciplines, but they have distinct characteristics and features that set them apart.

Understanding the key differences between the Scopus and Web of Science databases is crucial for researchers and academics. With the vast amount of published research available today, choosing the right database to search can make a real difference in accessing relevant content efficiently. This article will explore the distinctions between Scopus and Web of Science regarding their coverage, citation data, and metrics.

Understanding these key differences will enable researchers to choose the platform that best fits their needs and goals. The upcoming sections will explore these differences in more detail, comprehensively comparing these two major research databases.

What is the Web of Science?

Web of Science is a comprehensive bibliographic database that provides access to scholarly literature across multiple academic disciplines. Web of Science contains over 1.9 billion cited references from 1900.


The Web of Science Core Collection includes:

  1. Science Citation Index Expanded
  2. Social Sciences Citation Index
  3. Arts & Humanities Citation Index
  4. Emerging Sources Citation Index.

Together, these indexes cover high-impact journals in the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and emerging scientific fields.

Compared to other databases like Scopus, Web of Science has more limited coverage but goes further back in time. It focuses on English-language journals and major regional journals in Europe and Latin America.

Citation Data

A key feature of the Web of Science is its rich citation data. It allows users to track how research is cited over time and measure the influence of scholarly work through citation-based metrics like the journal impact factor and h-index.

Web of Science provides cited reference searching, letting researchers trace prior work that has cited a particular article or author. This reveals connections between research areas and helps users determine the impact of publications and individuals.


In addition to standard citation counts, Web of Science offers proprietary metrics like the Journal Impact Factor to assess the prestige and influence of academic journals. It also calculates the h-index, which measures an author’s productivity and citation impact.

These metrics, citation reports, and analysis tools help researchers evaluate the reach and significance of published work indexed within the Web of Science.

What is Scopus?

Scopus is another major research database that provides access to a broad range of scholarly literature. Launched in 2004 by Elsevier, Scopus has quickly become a go-to resource for researchers across many academic disciplines. It can be said that the Scopus database is Elsevier’s answer to the Web of Science.

One of the key advantages of Scopus is its extensive coverage.

Scopus contains over 75 million records, including abstracts and citations for peer-reviewed journals, books, conference proceedings, and trade publications. This is significantly more content than traditional databases like Web of Science.

Scopus also provides citation data from a broader range of sources. Hence, researchers have a more comprehensive view of how widely their work is cited.

Some other useful features offered by Scopus include:

  • Tools to analyze an author’s publishing history and track metrics like the h-index
  • Alerts to keep up with new results on saved searches
  • Options to filter search results by document type, subject area, author name, and more

With its vast content and smart search functionality, Scopus has become a favorite of researchers looking to do comprehensive literature reviews. It’s an invaluable source of citation data and an essential tool for tracking research impact.

Comparing Coverage of Journals and Publications

When selecting a research database, one of the most important factors is the breadth of coverage. On this front, Scopus has a broader range of coverage.

Scopus indexes over 15,000 peer-reviewed titles from over 4,000 publishers, including 100% of Medline titles. In comparison, Web of Science covers around 12,000 journals.

The benefit of this extensive coverage is that researchers can cast a wider net when searching for relevant literature. This is especially useful for interdisciplinary topics, where papers may be scattered across journals in different fields. With its more extensive journal base, Scopus is less likely to miss these valuable cross-disciplinary connections.

However, Web of Science retains some unique coverage of regional journals and social sciences and humanities publications. Researchers interested in these niche topics may find Web of Science more comprehensive despite its smaller overall journal count.

In the end, there is no definitive winner in terms of coverage. The best approach is to verify whether journals in your specific field are included in either database. This tiny bit of extra effort can ensure you have access to the most extensive literature possible for your area of research.

Comparing Citation Data

Citation data is crucial when comparing research databases like Scopus and Web of Science. At first glance, Web of Science seems to have an edge here – its comprehensive citation indexing covers over 100 years of publications. However, Scopus has some advantages of its own.

Scopus’ Diverse Data Sources

While Web of Science focuses solely on journal citation data, Scopus casts a broader net. It aggregates citations from scholarly journals, books, conference proceedings, and other sources. Researchers can get a complete picture of an article or author’s impact.

Implications of Broader Coverage

By tapping into citation data beyond journals, Scopus provides insights that the Web of Science cannot. For example, an engineering professor’s work may be heavily cited at conferences, but Scopus would capture this while Web of Science would not. The broader range of sources allows Scopus to assess research influence in ways that the Web of Science cannot.

Caution with Older Literature

One downside of Scopus’ diverse sources is that its coverage of older publications is not as comprehensive as the Web of Science. So, Web of Science’s citations may be more reliable for historical literature. Researchers should be aware of these differences when choosing a database.

Scopus’ varied citation sources give it an edge for assessing impact across disciplines. But Web of Science remains a powerhouse for citation-based analysis of older journal literature. Understanding these strengths and limitations is crucial in selecting the right tool.

Comparing Metrics

Scopus and Web of Science offer different metrics to assess the impact of published research. Some key metrics to compare include:

Journal Metrics

Scopus provides the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) and Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) metrics to measure a journal’s contextual citation impact. Web of Science offers the Journal Impact Factor. Each metric has its methodology and limitations for assessing journal influence.

Citation Count Metrics

Scopus and Web of Science provide the number of citations a publication receives. However, Scopus gathers citation data from more sources, providing a more comprehensive count in many cases.

Author Metrics

To evaluate researchers, Scopus offers the h-index and g-index, while Web of Science provides the h-index and contemporary h-index. The g-index accounts for highly cited papers, unlike the h-index. The contemporary h-index adjusts for career length.

Institution Metrics

Scopus uses SCImago Institutions Rankings to benchmark institutions. Web of Science provides Essential Science Indicators for institutional comparisons. Each platform assesses institutions differently based on its data.

The bottom line is that the choice of metrics impacts how research is evaluated. Researchers should understand the nuances of these metrics to select appropriate indicators for their field and goals.

Difficulty in Getting Indexed in Web of Science and Scopus

Having dealt with both databases in the past decade, I can say that getting indexed in the Web of Science is more difficult than Scopus. Within ten years, we managed to enter most academic journals we publish into Scopus.

Getting indexed in the Web of Science, particularly the Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, requires more steps. Sometimes, a journal is indexed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (which does not get a Journal Impact Factor index until changes in 2023) before it gets into the “primary” databases.

Ultimately, the difficulty in getting indexed in Web of Science and Scopus depends on various factors such as the research’s quality and impact, the journal’s reputation, and adherence to specific indexing criteria.

Web of Science has a more rigorous selection process and stricter criteria for inclusion. Journals need to demonstrate a high level of quality, international reach, and citation impact to be considered for indexing. This often involves meeting specific publication criteria, including peer review processes, editorial standards, and citation thresholds.

On the other hand, Scopus has a more inclusive approach and aims to cover a broader range of journals and research outputs. While Scopus also has specific indexing criteria, it may be relatively more straightforward to fulfill these requirements than Web of Science.

It’s worth noting that both databases periodically review and update their indexes, so even if a journal is initially accepted for indexing, it needs to maintain its quality and relevance to remain indexed.

In summary, while both Web of Science and Scopus have their criteria for journal inclusion, Web of Science generally has a more stringent selection process, making it potentially more difficult to get indexed than Scopus.

Other Differences

Interface and User Experience

A database’s interface and user experience significantly affect how researchers interact with the information available. Scopus and Web of Science have unique interfaces offering various features and functionalities.

The Web of Science interface is relatively straightforward and has been designed to emphasize citation analysis. It offers several search modes, including basic search, advanced search, author search, cited reference search, and journal search. These different search modes allow users to perform specific searches based on their requirements.

The citation report feature in Web of Science provides a detailed analysis of citation data, including the number of citations per year, the h-index of an author, and other relevant metrics. This is particularly useful for researchers who want to measure the impact of their work.

Web of Science also visualizes citation networks, allowing users to see the relationships between articles and authors. The ability to analyze citation patterns visually can be precious for researchers studying the development of a field or the influence of a particular work.

On the other hand, the Scopus interface is more modern and intuitive compared to Web of Science. It offers a variety of search options, including document search, author search, affiliation search, and advanced search. Each search mode has numerous filters, such as publication year, document type, subject area, and more, which can help users refine their search results.

Scopus also provides a robust citation overview tool, which presents citation data clearly and easily. This tool allows users to track citations over time and assess the impact of a particular piece of research.

One of the standout features of Scopus is its “Analyze Results” function. This tool provides a range of statistical insights about search results, such as publication trends over time, top sources, top authors, and more. This analytical capability can benefit researchers looking to gain a deeper understanding of a topic or field.

Both Web of Science and Scopus offer unique user experiences. Web of Science is well-suited for researchers interested in citation analysis and visualizing citation networks, while Scopus provides a more intuitive interface with powerful analytical tools. Researchers should choose the database that best aligns with their research needs and personal preferences.

Frequency of Updates

The frequency of updates is another important factor to consider when comparing Web of Science and Scopus. Both databases are committed to providing their users with the most recent and relevant scholarly literature, but they differ in their update schedules.

Differences between Web of Science and Scopus

Web of Science is known for its weekly updates. This regular updating schedule ensures that users can access the most current research within a week of its publication. The exact day of the update can vary, but it generally occurs towards the end of the week.

Scopus, on the other hand, is updated daily. This means that new content is added daily, making Scopus a more real-time resource for researchers. This frequent updating schedule can be particularly beneficial for researchers working in fast-paced fields where new findings are published frequently.

However, it’s worth noting that the frequency of updates does not necessarily equate to the indexing speed. Indexing refers to the process of adding a newly published article to the database, and this process can take some time. While Scopus may update its content daily, it doesn’t mean that an article will appear in Scopus immediately upon publication. Similarly, while Web of Science updates weekly, it may still take some time for a new article to appear in the database.

In summary, while both databases strive to provide the most current research, Scopus offers more frequent updates, adding new content daily, compared to the weekly updates of Web of Science. However, the speed of indexing can vary in both databases.

Identifying the Differences Between Web of Science and Scopus

Researchers should know some key differences between Web of Science and Scopus databases. Researchers are more likely to find relevant articles and data in Scopus. Scopus also provides citation data from a broader range of sources, giving a more comprehensive picture of a research article’s impact.

While Web of Science focuses mainly on citations in indexed journals, Scopus pulls data from books, conferences, and other non-journal content. Regarding metrics, Scopus offers more options like the SJR indicator and SNIP metric, whereas Web of Science relies heavily on the Journal Impact Factor. This gives researchers more choice in selecting appropriate metrics based on their field and goals.

So, in conclusion, while both databases have their strengths, Scopus stands out for its broader coverage and more extensive citation data. Researchers should take the time to explore both platforms and analyze their own needs. Those needing comprehensive results across global research may find Scopus more suitable, while Web of Science provides robust citation analysis for major journals.

The choice between Scopus and Web of Science has important implications for research discovery, analysis, and evaluation. We encourage readers to thoroughly compare these databases and select the best fit their specific requirements. With sound information and careful consideration, researchers can decide which database to use for their research needs.

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