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How do I do a citation search?

Why do a citation search?

  • It can turn up relevant articles from unexpected disciplines.
  • You are not dependent on the author's or indexer's choice of vocabulary.
  • It allows you to follow up discussion and argument, to see what happened next, after the article was published.
  • It is a great aid for assembling a bibliography or recommended reading list.

What do I use?

Use a special index, a citation index created from the lists of references that appear at the end of journal articles.

You specify a key article, author or book and are provided with a list of other articles that have included that article, author or book in their bibliographies, and where, therefore, you can assume some aspect of your subject is discussed.

You can develop a complex search as for each relevant article you find in the index, you can also find articles that cite it and the articles it references. You are in fact constructing a "web of knowledge" for your subject. You will usually notice that useful articles are appearing in journals seemingly unrelated to your topic.

How do I do it?

Choose a core article or book that will form the target of your search (in publication for at least one or two years). Then locate a database with a citation index. Web of Science, Google Scholar, Academic Search Complete, ScienceDirect, Scopus  include citation indexes of their own.

Examples

Web of Science

Here is an example Web of Science search sequence using Jones, J.C. (1980) Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures, 2nd edn, Wiley, as the target book citation:

  1. Access Web of Science.
  2. Open the drop down menu by 'Basic Search' and select the 'Cited Reference Search' option.
  3. Enter the name of your target author in the prescribed format (Jones JC) and the year of publication (1980).
  4. Select Search.
  5. The system responds with a list of the books and papers published by Jones in 1980, which have been cited in the bibliographies of the articles in the database.
  6. Select the entries that correspond to your target and then select 'Finish Search'.
  7. Have a look at interesting-sounding articles in the results list and use the mark feature to save them in a list of useful references.

For a visual guide, see these Web of Science recorded training guides.

Google Scholar

Here is an example Google Scholar search sequence using Jones, J.C. (1980) Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures, 2nd edn, Wiley, as the target book citation:

  1. Go to Google Scholar
  2. Search for the text you are interested in e.g. ‘Jones Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures 1980’
  3. Under the entry for that text, follow the ‘Cited by [number of citations]’ link
  4. This presents you with a list of other texts that have cited the text you specified
  5. Have a look at interesting-sounding texts in the results list
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