Reference: ereviews | March 1, 2013

Scopus Elsevier 

Elsevier’s multidisciplinary Scopus abstract and citation database is one of three parts of the SciVerse platform, complementing SciVerse Hub and ScienceDirect. Scopus contains over 49 million records for journal articles, book series, conference proceedings, and other periodicals. Monographs and conference abstracts are excluded, but reference lists and citing references are included for almost 22 million of these records, allowing users to track citations forward and backwards through the scholarly citation chain.

Coverage is mostly in the sciences, with approximately 4,300 life science, 6,800 health science (including 100% of Medline records) and 7,200 physical science titles. The database also contains a growing number of journals in the social sciences and humanities, now numbering more 5,300 items A complete title list is available from

While the database contains records for articles as far back as 1823, the records prior to 1996 do not contain reference lists or citing references. Most records contain abstracts, author keywords, or subject (such as MESH subject headings). Other tools such as ISI Web of Knowledge or even Google Scholar may have better citing of references for pre-1996 articles.

In addition to the index records, Scopus includes some useful tools for librarians and researchers. In direct response to the wide use in academia of Thomson’s Impact Factor (calculated using Web of Knowledge data), Scopus provides data for two additional journal metrics, the SNIP (source normalized impact per paper) and the SJR (SCImago Journal Rank). Both metrics seek to correct some of the deficiencies of the impact factor by weighing citations from publications differently or by accounting for differences in citation habits among disciplines (additional information about both metrics is available at Researchers can visually compare the SNIP and SJR for journals using Scopus’s Journal Analyzer function. The Journal Analyzer creates simple graphs showing how the two metrics have changed over time for the journals added by the user.

Scopus has also created an API allowing developers to create interesting applications within Scopus to add functionality. A simple app could automatically display additional titles from an article’s authors on the right hand side of the item record. More complicated apps create dynamic visualizations based on the topic, authors, or co-citation network of the article viewed. Apps can also connect users to outside content such as books, Faculty of 1000 reviews, research data, etc.

Scopus uses article records to create author and institutional profiles, allowing easy disambiguation of same-name authors. Each author has a unique ID and can link an ORCID author ID to this profile. Further integration with ORCID is planned. Author profiles contain information about past affiliations as well as published articles, references, and citations. An h-index is calculated for each author, and an interesting author-evaluator tool allows users to visually examine journal titles, subject areas, and co-authors for each author. Institutional profiles provide similar information, including a list of top publishing sources, collaborating institutions, and subject areas of those publications. This data can be downloaded to help librarians and administrators in their decision-making processes.


USABILITY Scopus provides several specialized search options available in tabs on the database homepage. The default search allows for multiple search boxes and provides limiters based on date, document type, or subject area. An advanced search geared toward experts offers command-line operators like “PRE/” and “W/,” although contextual guidance is provided. Separate tabs enable easy author and affiliation searching. Users can also look up journal information by title, ISSN, or publisher via a “Sources” search available in the main navigation bar.

After a search is complete, the results list is accompanied by a set of tools enabling detailed filtering of the results. Users can filter, by limiting or excluding keywords, authors, broad subject areas, document types, journals, affiliations, countries and languages. Each of these can help a student or researcher pinpoint the information they need, depending on the topic or assignment. The keyword filter is extremely useful in helping students to understand the scholarly language of their topics and narrow a topic.

Several options are provided for obtaining full-text articles, including the ability to add an OpenURL link, a link to view the article at the publisher’s site, and a download button. The download button opens a Java applet and attempts to directly download a PDF from the publisher’s website, but it only works with certain browsers, which may lead to confusion. In addition, off-campus users may be unsuccessful at downloading a PDF because the feature relies on IP authentication. The “View at publisher” link can also be confusing to some students, especially if they are off campus or if the library subscribes to a journal via an aggregator.

Tracking citations is quite easy, with links to citing articles available on the search results page, the item record page, and on author and institutional profiles. Conveniently, the list of citing references repeats citation information for the original article at the top of the page so the user doesn’t lose track of the search.

Users can create personalized accounts that allow them to save searches and record lists. Alerts are available via email or RSS feed for search results and citations. Apps are only available for logged-in users.


PRICING Scopus pricing is variable as it is tailored for each individual institute. The contract value depends on a number of factors, such as the research intensity of the organization, the size of the organization (determined by the number of full-time employees), the national spend on research and development, and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


VERDICT Some features such as the ability to track citations are available in free products such as Google Scholar, but Scopus provides more flexibility and precision in filtering a search and in author searching. I found the resource to be more user-friendly than ISI’s Web of Knowledge. Scopus is an excellent tool for discovering research and would be most useful for academic libraries and corporate libraries in research institutions with large budgets.

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at

Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at