Skip to content

Toggle service links

Library Services

Your gateway to a wide range of online information resources

How do I do a citation search?

Student writing in a journal and searching on a laptop

What is a citation search?

Citation searching is a way of finding relevant research in a field or subject by looking at what an article has referenced and who has since used that article as a reference. For example, you might find a journal article published in 2001. You can do a citation search to find the articles that the 2001 article has referenced, but also find out if anyone has since referenced the 2001 article.

Why do a citation search?

  • It can turn up relevant articles from unexpected disciplines.
  • You are not dependent on using the author's or indexer's choice of vocabulary to discover resources.
  • It allows you to follow up discussion and argument, to see how an argument or idea developed.
  • It is a great aid for assembling a bibliography or recommended reading list.
  • It is a useful way of finding other possible search terms you can use to find information.

What information do I use?

First you identify a key article, author or book which you are studying or has been referenced in an article you are looking at. By using that resource's title or author's name you can conduct a citation search in a database. You are then 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 are constructing a "web of knowledge" for your subject. You will usually notice that useful articles appear in journals seemingly unrelated to your topic.

How do I do it?

Choose an article or book that will be the target of your search (in publication for at least one or two years). Then locate a database with a citation index. For example, Web of ScienceGoogle ScholarAcademic Search CompleteScienceDirect, and Scopus include citation indexes of their own.


Web of Science

Here is an example from 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. Select ‘Cited references' search.
  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 'See Results'.
  7. Have a look at the 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 from 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 the texts in the results list.