Understanding the limitations of the journal impact factor.

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The impact factor, a simple mathematical formula reflecting the number of citations of a journal's material divided by the number of citable materials published by that same journal, has evolved to become one of the most influential tools in modern research and academia. The impact factor can be influenced and biased (intentionally or otherwise) by many factors. Extension of the impact factor to the assessment of journal quality or individual authors is inappropriate. Extension of the impact factor to cross-discipline journal comparison is also inappropriate. Those who choose to use the impact factor as a comparative tool should be aware of the nature and premise of its derivation and also of its inherent flaws and practical limitations.

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