Scopus vs Web of Science

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You may be familiar with Web of Science or Scopus, but do you know what the difference is between them? We asked one of our academic liaison librarians, Michael Whitton, to explain.

What are Web of Science and Scopus?

Both these resources are ‘abstract and citation’ databases – this means they have lots of information about journal articles and other publications. We have a subscription to both databases, and additionally we have access to many (but not all) of the full text articles they cover in print and/or online form. They are useful for finding articles, and also for tracking citations and other metrics.

Scopus is a large interdisciplinary database from Elsevier, with particular strengths in science and technology. The bibliometric & citation features use the whole of the Scopus database.

Web of Science (previously known as Web of Knowledge) is a collection of databases  maintained by Thomson Reuters, including at Southampton key databases in biology (Biosis) and physics, electronics & computing databases (Inspec). Note that other universities may have access to different databases in this larger collection.

If you search using the default ‘all databases’ option you are searching this larger collection, but Web of Science also contains a ‘Core Collection’, covering science, social sciences and humanities. Most bibliometric & citation features only use the smaller Core Collection.

Which is better?

If you are searching for journal articles both will do a similar job, and both allow alerts, exporting to EndNote etc. You may find one of them more useful depending on your discipline, for example Scopus for health-related topics or the Web of Science ‘all databases’ search for physics. Try your search in both and see!

There is a useful comparison of Scopus and the Web of Science Core Collection here.

Bibliometrics or Measuring Research Impact

Again, both Web of Science Core Collection and Scopus are used for measuring research impact and we explain this in detail on our webpages.

The Web of Science Core Collection is probably the single most authoritative source.

Scopus is a very useful alternative for measuring the citation impact of articles, journals and authors. Scopus has a larger dataset, so more articles, journals and conference papers will have metrics. Metrics will be different numbers (e.g. h-indexes tend to be higher) – there is the usual  need to compare ‘like with like’.

What about DelphiS?

All of Scopus is searched by DelphiS, our library discovery tool. Only part of the Web of Science (the Core Collection) is included.

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