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Research Area Schemas

Research area schemas, alongside baselines, are important to place bibliometric data into context. A citation count of a paper in isolation is a relatively meaningless number. But by looking at it in the context of peer publications, one can understand the performance, see if it is above or below average and by how much. Through benchmarking, data becomes actionable knowledge.

It is necessary to understand performance within the context of research areas because publication rates and citation behavior can vary considerably from discipline to discipline, document type and over time. For example, mathematics papers are usually cited at a relatively low rate but the citation rate can persist over a long period of time. Whereas molecular biology papers are typically cited more frequently and the citations tail off after a few years as the research is superseded. By understanding the underlying trends and comparing the publications of interest to publications in the same research area, year and document type will have more meaningful results.

There are 12 different research area schemas available in InCites. Three are exclusive to Thomson Reuters and are described below.

A further eight are based on mapping Thomson Reuters data to external subject classification systems. These schemas are designed to enable the use of bibliometric indicators in the context of a regional research evaluation program, for example the Research Excellence Framework in the United Kingdom. Alternatively, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) subject classification schema is a valuable tool for looking at national level bibliometric indicators in the context of demographical and financial data provided by the OECD. Typically, schemas based on external subject classifications are developed in partnership with research evaluation bodies in that region. They may be based on journal classifications or the mapping of Web of Science categories. Please see the Appendix (Regional Subject Schemas) for details of these schemas.

Which schema to use will depend on the objectives of the analysis. Typically if looking at small sets of publications, such as the output of a single department or individual author, it is advisable to use the higher precision of a narrow subject classification such as the Web of Science schema. This approach may be useful to overcome differences between things such as applied and theoretical research of the same topic.

However, if you wish to understand the overall subject mix of an organization or a country, using a broader schema may be more appropriate.

Web of Science

The narrowest categorization. The Web of Science scheme is comprised of 252 subject categories in science, social sciences, arts and humanities. The scheme is created by assigning each journal to one or more subject categories. Broad disciplines such as physics are represented as smaller subfields, for example “Physics, Applied” and “Physics, Nuclear.” This narrow definition of subject is an important characteristic of the scheme as citation behavior may significantly vary among subfields. The Web of Science subject scheme is generally considered the best for detailed bibliometric analysis as its granularity enables the user to objectively measure performance against papers that are similar in scope and citation characteristics.

However, because it is often not possible to assign a journal to a single category, there can be overlapping coverage of categories which may complicate an analysis. Each published item will inherit all subject categories assigned to the parent journal.

Coverage of books and conferences follow the same definitions of subject area.

List of categories, scope notes, and journal coverage is available at:

Science Citation Index Expanded


Social Science Citation Index


Arts & Humanities Citation Index


Essential Science Indicators

A broad categorization. The Essential Science Indicators scheme comprises 22 subject areas in science and social sciences and is based on journal assignments. Arts & Humanities journals are not included. Each journal is found in only one of the 22 subject areas and there is no overlap between categories which can facilitate simpler analysis.

GIPP Research Areas

A very broad categorization. The GIPP scheme comprises six broad disciplines but covers all fields of scholarly research. The GIPP scheme is based on an aggregation of the Web of Science subject categories and contains significant overlap between disciplines.

The mapping of WoS subject area to GIPP category must be reviewed periodically because WoS subject areas may change from one year to the next. The WoS subject area GREEN & SUSTAINABLE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY is new to WoS for 2016, and it has been mapped as follows:

WoS Subject Area

GIPP Classification


Engineering & Technology



Mapping of the Web of Science scheme to the GIPP scheme is available in the Appendix (GIPP subject mapping table) .