Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2005

Web of Science and Scopus

For many years, members of the Boston College community have depended upon the Web of Science database – containing Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index and Arts and Humanities Citation Index – to serve their needs for a strong inter-disciplinary bibliographic and citation search tool. Now, there is also a new player on the block, the Scopus database. This summer, the Boston College Libraries entered into a long-term trial agreement with Reed Elsevier Group, allowing BC users the chance to thoroughly explore Scopus as a potential alternative to the Web of Science database. Introduced to the market in late 2004, Scopus is still undergoing development, but already has attracted attention for its expansive journal coverage and innovative search interface. At the end of the trial period in December 2006, the Boston College Libraries will need to choose between the two databases: your feedback will be critical in this decision.


[View Scopus screen shot]


Size and Coverage

Both databases index the scholarly journal literature published in a wide variety of disciplines. Scopus also indexes some 750 conference publications and searches the Web, using the Scirus search engine to retrieve web resources including preprint and patent publications. While Scopus may index more journals in the sciences, its overall larger number of journals means that it actually covers more social sciences journals than the Web of Science. Comparing search results from the two databases invariably shows significant overlap in coverage, yet with unique titles from each. Scopus provides better coverage of international publications.


Web of Science – approximately 8,500 journal titles

  • Science Citation Expanded Index: 6391 titles
  • Social Sciences Citation Index: 1824 titles
  • Arts and Humanities Citation Index: 1135 titles


Scopus – approximately 14,000 journal titles and 750 conference publications; also web resources and patents

  • Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Engineering: 4,500 titles
  • Life and Health Sciences: 5,900 titles (100% Medline coverage)
  • Social Sciences, Psychology and Economics: 2,700 titles
  • Biological, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: 2,500 titles
  • General Science: 50 titles
  • (Arts and Humanities not covered)


To see specific titles indexed, see:

Scopus journal content

Web of Science journal content


Chronological Coverage

The Boston College subscription for Web of Science now extends back to 1970; cited reference searches have no specified chronological threshold. Scopus provides selective coverage back to 1960. For 1996 to the present, all Scopus records have linked cited references.


Citation Searching

Both databases provide for “citation searching”, allowing users to find later works citing earlier ones. Web of Science has long been the standard in this type of searching – and for many years offered the only option in this area, first in print and then online. The Web of Science two-step search interface provides a “look-up” feature for browsing through incorrect citations, before the final search step. Scopus, on the other hand, offers citation searching in a single-step: once you find the original reference of interest, the link to the citing references is given on the same screen – for all records from 1996 to the present. Scopus citation searching is limited to the journal literature, whereas Web of Science retrieves monograph citations, as well. Scopus’ citation tool is expected to undergo further development in the coming year.


[View Web of Science screen shot 1; screen shot 2]


At the end of the trial period in December 2006, the Boston College Libraries will need to choose between the two databases: your feedback will be critical in this important decision.


Sally WymanSally Wyman
Bibliographer for Chemistry and Physics



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