Becoming metrics literate: An analysis of brief videos that teach about the h-index

Lauren A. Maggio*, Alyssa Jeffrey, Stefanie Haustein, Anita Samuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Academia uses scholarly metrics, such as the h-index, to make hiring, promotion, and funding decisions. These high-stakes decisions require that those using scholarly metrics be able to recognize, interpret, critically assess and effectively and ethically use them. This study aimed to characterize educational videos about the h-index to understand available resources and provide recommendations for future educational initiatives. Methods The authors analyzed videos on the h-index posted to YouTube. Videos were identified by searching YouTube and were screened by two authors. To code the videos the authors created a coding sheet, which assessed content and presentation style with a focus on the videos’ educational quality based on Cognitive Load Theory. Two authors coded each video independently with discrepancies resolved by group consensus. Results Thirty-one videos met inclusion criteria. Twenty-one videos (68%) were screencasts and seven used a “talking head” approach. Twenty-six videos defined the h-index (83%) and provided examples of how to calculate and find it. The importance of the h-index in high-stakes decisions was raised in 14 (45%) videos. Sixteen videos (52%) described caveats about using the h-index, with potential disadvantages to early researchers the most prevalent (n = 7; 23%). All videos incorporated various educational approaches with potential impact on viewer cognitive load. A minority of videos (n = 10; 32%) displayed professional production quality. Discussion The videos featured content with potential to enhance viewers’ metrics literacies such that many defined the h-index and described its calculation, providing viewers with skills to recognize and interpret the metric. However, less than half described the h-index as an author quality indicator, which has been contested, and caveats about h-index use were inconsistently presented, suggesting room for improvement. While most videos integrated practices to facilitate balancing viewers’ cognitive load, few (32%) were of professional production quality. Some videos missed opportunities to adopt particular practices that could benefit learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0268110
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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