Basic information

  • URL:
  • Cost: Varies: includes both free and fee-based versions with different features.
  • Open source: No

How to use this tool for use/reuse assessment

Mendeley is a reference manager which is used to organize and share research papers and generate bibliographies for scholarly articles. Mendeley readership statistics demonstrate how often an item is included in a user’s library and how many times it is cited and read within the platform. Mendeley’s “Readers” is a statistical count demonstrating a researcher’s initial interest in a digital object. When a researcher includes a digital object in their Mendeley library, this entry is counted as a “Reader” number. 

Inclusion in Mendeley does not mean that the item was used or reused, but simply that a researcher found it interesting enough to pull the citation into their library. This enables researchers to predict the impact an article might have in that discipline, and is a useful indicator for evaluating the context of a journal article, but is not considered a direct measure of research impact. Practitioners can search for specific items via the user interface or through Mendeley’s API. Information and documentation for both processes can be found at Mendeley’s Readership Statistics.

Ethical guidelines

Practitioners should follow the practices laid out in the “Ethical considerations and guidelines for the assessment of use and reuse of digital content.” The Guidelines are meant both to inform practitioners in their decision-making, and to model for users what they can expect from those who steward digital collections.

Additional guidelines for responsible practice

According to Mendeley’s parent company (Elsevier) they can collect a wide range of user data  based on direct user input, third-party sources, and through automated technologies. This data includes a) personally identifiable data about users such as name, email address, postal address, phone number, social media handle, usernames and passwords, password hints and similar security information, b) device and usage data, and c) profile information, such as “educational, professional and other background information, such as your field of study, current position, practice area and areas of interests, gender, ORCID ID and photo” and d) payment information such as credit or debit card numbers and government-issued ID numbers.

Mendeley’s privacy policy also states that they may use and share personal information with a user’s institution, all of Elsevier’s companies and service providers, and to legal entities as necessary. Additionally, personal information “may be stored and processed in your region or another country where Elsevier companies and their service providers maintain servers and facilities, including Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” 1


  • Research has found that readership counts in Mendeley are correlated with higher citation counts in other publications and it has one of the most robust search features for citation collection and analysis.

  • Mendeley’s API allows for bulk download of readership data of digital objects which is an advantage over Google Scholar.

  • Data can be automatically extracted and analyzed by researchers or organizations. There is an API-enabled provision of data on broad user demographics (audience and user bases) stored by Mendeley.

  • Many academic institutions promote the use of this tool and it is widely used by researchers, particularly those from large institutions and institutions outside of the United States.


  • Mendeley does not explicitly identify reuse, making it harder to extrapolate true interest in a digital object. 

  • It is primarily useful for scholarly publications and less applicable for digital primary source documents because the use of citation managers for organizing non-scholarly digital objects is not a wide-spread practice to date. 

  • Mendeley’s template for potential primary source documents includes: patents, statutes, newspaper articles, computer programs, hearings, cases, bills, television broadcasts, and films. Common non-scholarly digital objects from repositories are much broader and can include things like personal journals, photographs, paintings, oral histories, datasets, codebooks, and other items. Consistent metadata for non-scholarly digital objects also presents a challenge for institutions.

  • Mendeley’s automated tool (Mendeley Cite)  treats digital objects as web pages when importing citations. Extraction of webpage metadata may result in unstructured citation formatting.

  • The use of Mendeley products requires registration for an account.

  • Mendeley is an indicator of use or reuse within the scholarly disciplines or formally published material but excludes much of the broader content reuse ecosystem.

  • Mendeley is owned by Elsevier and users do not have full control over how their data is managed or used.

Real world examples

  • A triangulation of citation data from three citation management systems
    It reports a study of the citation analysis of articles in 29 large journals chosen from different disciplines from Scopus citation counts, Microsoft Academic citation counts and Mendeley reader counts for articles published 2007–2017. 

    Thelwall, M. (2017). Microsoft Academic: A multidisciplinary comparison of citation counts with Scopus and Mendeley for 29 journalsJournal of Informetrics, 11(4), 1201-1212. 

  • Using Mendeley to identify highly cited publications
    This study presents a large-scale analysis of the distribution and presence of Mendeley readership scores over time and across disciplines. The paper explored whether Mendeley readership scores (RS) can identify highly cited publications more effectively than journal citation scores.

    Zahedi, Z., Costas, R., & Wouters, P. (2017). Mendeley readership as a filtering tool to identify highly cited publicationsJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology,68(10), 2511-2521. 

Additional resources

Haustein, S., Bowman, T. D. , & Costas, R. (2016). Interpreting “altmetrics”: Viewing acts on social media through the lens of citation and social theories. In C.R. Sugimoto (Ed.), Theories of informetrics and scholarly communication (pp. 372–406). De Gruyter.

Zahedi, Z., Costas, R., & Wouters, P. (2014, June 2-5). Assessing the impact of the publications read by the different Mendeley users: Is there any different pattern among users? [Conference presentation]. 35th international association of technological university libraries, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.

Used for these methods

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