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Measuring Research Impact 4: Overton


There are no universally accepted definitions of policy documents. Overton, the searchable policy citation database that indexes millions of policy documents, guidelines, publications, and working papers from national, regional and city governments, think tanks, policy-focused NGOs and IGOs, etc. all over the world, broadly defines them as documents written primarily for or by policymakers that are published by a policy-focused source.

Overton demonstrates the policy impact of individuals and scholarly articles. By tracking the citations and mentions of scholarly publications in policy documents, Overton helps researchers (i) gain insights into the reach and influence of their work in the policy space, (ii) identify potential funding and collaboration opportunities through the examination of policy sources that cite their work, and (iii) collect evidence for research impact evaluation, grant reporting, professional advancement, and other purposes.

In an era where funders increasingly require demonstrable evidence to assess how their grants have translated into benefits and impact beyond academia (e.g., the University Grants Committee's Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2026), Overton serves as a valuable tool for tracking and demonstrating policy impact.


This short video provides an introduction to Overton.

  Overton Data Coverage:

Searches in Overton

Overton can be accessed via the Library's subscription to the research analysis & benchmarking tools (link). It offers three search options on its start page, which are "Search Policy Documents", "Search People", and "Search Scholarly Articles".

The search options are also available under the "Search" tab.

To get started, click on the example searches (under "Try some example searches") and shortcuts (under "Or click on a shortcut") for pre-defined queries related to CityU and its researchers, such as links to people and scholarly articles that have been cited/mentioned in policy documents.

To enable customized features such as saved searches, alerts, tags and highlights, you are suggested to register/login with your own Overton account by clicking on the "Log in" button in the upper-right corner or in the middle of the start page. Alternatively, you can follow the direct link and register for Overton using CityU email address.

After login, the saved searches will replace the example searches and appear in the middle of the start page. You can set email alerts, reorder and rename the searches (Guide: Saved searches, alerts, tags and highlights).

On the start page, the default search tab is "Search Policy Documents", where you can run searches such as marine for a topic, document title, organization, etc. in the field. You can retrieve matching policy documents by selecting options from the dropdown list or clicking "Search policy" next to the search box. You can also use other search syntax for phrases, proximate matching, searching specific fields and boolean queries to obtain more precise results (Guide: Advanced searches).

The results page provides information for your further exploration.

A. In the left-hand-side panel, filters are available for result refinement by source type, source name, region, year, institutions/people cited/mentioned in the policy documents, etc. (Guide: Policy document filters).

B. You can click on one of the policy titles to view the policy details (Guide: How to read policy document results).

C. The grey bar above the search results provides options for saving and exploring the searches.

 

Sample searches:

Policy documents matching the query 'wastewater’ 
Policy documents matching the query 'title:sustainability OR sostenibilidad’
Policy documents matching the query 'abstract:"hong kong" AND innovat*’ 
Policy documents from Chinese policymakers (mainland and China) 
Policy documents connected to 'City University of Hong Kong'
Policy documents citing funder 'City University of Hong Kong'
Policy documents matching the full-text query '"cityu" OR "City University of Hong Kong"’

 

Further reading:

Search for books or book chapters cited in policy

On the start page, the "Search People" tab allows you to search for individuals using either a single name, such as John Chan by clicking "Search people", or multiple names by clicking "Enter list of names" (Guide: Search for names in Overton).

The results page provides information for your further exploration.

A. In the left-hand-side panel, filters are available for result refinement by type, from country, with affiliation and in documents published. 

B. You can click on the author names to retrieve the details of the related policy documents, articles, topics, etc.

C. The grey bar above the search results provides options for saving, exporting and exploring the searches.

 

Sample searches:

Articles tab - publications matching Johnny Chan's publication DOIs
Articles tab - publications matching Johnny Chan's ORCID ID
People tab - people whose names contain 'Johnny Chan’
People tab - people from China in documents published in the past 2 years 

 

Further reading: 

How does Overton know who authored a scholarly article?
How does Overton know about author affiliations?
How does Overton find people mentioned in policy documents?
Why are some authors not appearing in the People tab?

On the start page, the "Search Scholarly Articles" tab allows you to search for an article name or journal name, such as wastewater, or search for an author name, such as John Chan. It also supports searches for funders, publishers or institutions. You can do advanced searches using boolean operators (Guide: Advanced searches). Alternatively, you can perform ID search by pressing the button "Search by DOI, ORCID, PMID or ISBN" first, pasting a list of IDs such as DOIs, and then pressing "Search for these identifiers" (Guide: Search for scholarly articles cited in policy).

The results page provides information for your further exploration.

A. In the left-hand-side panel, filters are available for result refinement by affiliation, year, author, journal and subject, etc. 

B. You can click on the article titles that will direct you to the publisher websites for article details.

C. The grey bar above the search results provides options for saving the search, viewing the report (Guide: Summary reports for scholarly articles), exporting and exploring the searches.

 

Sample searches:

Articles tab - 2020 CityU publications cited in policy documents
Articles tab - CityU publications cited in policy documents in 2020
Articles tab - publications cited by Hong Kong policymakers

 

Further reading:

Search for books or book chapters cited in policy
How are scholarly references matched in policy documents?
Where does funding information for scholarly articles come from?

In certain cases, when conducting people search under the "Search People" tab on the start page, it is possible that a name may not yield any matches or yield fewer matches than expected. However, there might still be other relevant information about that author's works within the database, potentially due to missing references (Guide: Why are some authors not appearing in the People tab?).

To retrieve a relatively complete collection of scholarly articles by a person/a group of people in Overton for policy impact analysis, you are suggested to obtain a list of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) of the articles authored by the researcher(s). Then you can perform article search using the DOIs under the tab "Search Scholarly Articles", and do further analysis by viewing the citing policy documents, generating reports, exporting data to CSV or RIS, etc. on the next page.

CityU users can export article DOIs from the backend system of CityU Scholars, the University's Integrated Research Information Management System. Faculty members and Departmental Administrators for Research Information Management (DAs) can refer to the following guides on how to export DOIs from CityU Scholars.

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