Andrea C. Kepsel, MLIS, AHIP
Health Sciences Educational Technology Librarian
Michigan State University Libraries
Elsevier’s Scopus launched in 2004 and is an abstract and citation database with content curated by independent subject matter experts. As of January 2020 , Scopus contained over 77.8 million records, with the majority being published post-1969. Subject coverage is primarily the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. There is also a social sciences subject cluster that includes titles in the arts and humanities. In addition to peer-reviewed journals, records in Scopus consist of trade publications, book series, conference papers, and patents. Coverage is international in scope, with journals from over 5,000 publishers included. Titles are selected for inclusion in Scopus by the Content Selection and Advisory Board (CSAB), which is comprised of scientists, researchers, and librarians from around the world that represent the major scientific disciplines. The CSAB uses selection criteria based on journal policy, content, journal standing, publishing regularity, and online availability to determine if a journal should be indexed in Scopus, and suggests content and feature enhancements to maintain relevancy.
A newly published study  shows that a large number of predatory journals are indexed in Scopus. The authors found that 324 journals identified as “potentially, possibly, or probably” predatory, according to Beall’s List, were indexed in Scopus, totaling 164,000 articles published between 2015 and 2017. While Scopus stops adding new content from journals that are flagged over concerns about publishing practices, the previously indexed articles remain , misleading researchers about the quality of the works and contributing to inflated author metrics. While indexing of predatory journals is not limited to Scopus, this recent data is troubling and highlights how predatory publishing continues to be a growing and problematic trend.
The Scopus interface was recently updated to create a more streamlined interface and make it easier for users to search for the type of content they want. The initial entry point is a basic search for documents and there are options for searching by author or affiliation, as well as an advanced search. A link to search tips is provided for each. Keyword searches utilize a variety of controlled vocabularies from Elsevier’s own thesauri as well as subject-specific vocabularies such as MeSH, Emtree, and CAS Registry Numbers. PubMed ID (PMID) is searchable via advanced search, as well as funding data for records back to 2008.
Search for documents in Scopus is fairly straightforward and will feel familiar to those who use other Elsevier products. Results can be viewed and refined using the various filter and sort options, and search alerts can be set. Users can export results directly to Mendeley or RefWorks, or download in RIS, CSV, BibTex, or plain text formats. Users working with large sets of documents should note that exporting is limited up to 2,000 records for RIS and 20,000 for CSV. Search results can also be analyzed and viewed as charts and graphs that sort results by year, subject area, country, and more. Links to full-text are provided through an institution’s link resolver, and Scopus is compatible with one-click access services such as Third Iron’s LibKey. There is also a free browser extension, Document Download Manager, available in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge for downloading full-text PDFs directly from publisher websites.
The affiliation search function can be used to view the research output of an institution. Scopus assigns a unique identifier to each affiliation and attempts to disambiguate name variations so that all documents affiliated with an organization can be grouped together. Results displayed for each affiliation include documents based on subject area, collaborations, and publications. Users can also view the authors that are listed under each affiliation. Similarly, the author search function can be used to view the research output of individuals. Each author is assigned a unique author identifier and an author profile is generated. An individual’s ORCID can be added to their author profile as well. Viewing research outputs of institutions or individuals can often be difficult and time consuming due to inconsistent and ambiguous naming conventions, but these features in Scopus can help save time for users interested in performing these types of searches.
One of Scopus’s strengths are its citation metric features at the journal, article, and individual levels. The impact of specific journals is measured by CiteScore, which is similar to Journal Impact Factor used by Clarivate. Users can search the Scopus Sources list to view a publication’s CiteScore and sort titles by subject area and publisher. At the article level, Scopus can be used to track the number of times an article is cited or viewed, providing a measure of engagement with a paper. PlumX Metrics by Plum Analytics are also provided to show additional metrics such as mentions and social media shares. Finally, author metrics are available in author profiles and can measure the research impact of a specific individual. Metrics include the number of documents an author publishes, their h-index, and trends by year, topic, co-author, and more. Users are cautioned to remember citation metrics are not universally comparable and benchmarks can vary widely by source, publication type, and field. Web of Science and Google Scholar are similar tools that can be used to measure citation metrics and each has unique strengths and weaknesses  that must be weighed against each other when deciding which source to use.
While the Scopus interface is generally clean and easy to use, there are occasionally obtrusive pop-up boxes that get in the way of searching. These typically ask users to sign up for a user account or rate the product, and the option to decline or continue as a guest is not always easy to spot. There are also accessibility issues that may make it difficult or impossible for users with disabilities to use Scopus . Keyboard users and individuals who rely on screen readers may be unable to access or use content due to missing or inaccurate structural information. Additional concerns include insufficient color contrast, lack of PDF structural tagging, and inappropriate alt text.
Scopus is available to organizations or institutions from Elsevier through an annual subscription. Pricing varies and is dependent on size and research output, as well as geographic location. Access to content is through IP authentication, and remote access can be granted through federated authentication (such as Shibboleth or OpenAthens), VPN, proxy server, registration IDs provided by either Elsevier or an administrator, or a secure login link through intranet or library website. Subscriptions for individuals are not available; however, Scopus Preview offers free access to select features such as author profiles and journal rankings. Management and customization of a Scopus subscription, including setting up external linking and running usage reports, is performed through the Admin Tool. Scopus works with OpenURL and all major link resolvers. Account administrators have access to COUNTER 5 statistics and can download reports on platform usage, database search, and item usage. Additional usage reports are also available, which provide a more detailed breakdown of the types of searches being performed and the items that are viewed.
The breadth of content and ease of use makes Scopus a good choice for research and academic institutions looking for an abstract and citation database. It is especially useful for those looking to track publication outputs by individuals or affiliations. While broad in scope, its coverage is somewhat limited outside of the STEM fields. Scopus’ citation metric features complement those found in Web of Science, but, due to their similarities, libraries with budget constraints may need to choose one over the other based on their institution’s disciplinary focus.
1. Elsevier. 2020. Scopus Content Coverage Guide. Available from: https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/69451/Scopus_ContentCoverage_Guide_WEB.pdf
2. Macháček, V. & Srholec, M. 2021. Predatory publishing in Scopus: evidence on cross-country differences. Scientometrics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03852-4
3. Singh Chawla, D. February 8, 2021. Hundreds of ‘predatory’ journals indexed on leading scholarly database. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-00239-0
4. Martín-Martín, A., Orduna-Malea, E., Thelwall, M., & Delgado López-Cózar, E. 2018. Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus: A systematic comparison of citations in 252 subject categories. Journal of Informetrics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joi.2018.09.002
5. Michigan State University/Accessibility Research and Consulting. November 16, 2020. Accessibility Evaluation of Scopus. Library Accessibility Alliance. Available from: https://www.btaa.org/docs/default-source/library/accessibility-reports/laa—e-6-memo-(scopus)—final.pdf?sfvrsn=62a656f3_4