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Library Research: Citation searching

Learn how to expand or narrow searches, use nesting, phrase searching, truncation and wildcards, proximity, and more

Citation Searching

Forward or backward?  Whether you are using a seminal work or have found the perfect article, doing a citation search will allow you to find more recent works on the same topic.  Using the references of an article will lead you to older sources on your subject.

The number of times a paper is cited in the work of others can be an indication of its usefulness and importance. Through a cited reference search, you can discover how a known idea or innovation has been confirmed, applied, improved, extended, or corrected. Citation analysis can also be used to identify emerging areas of research, identify a field's leading researchers and to assess research output.

Keep in mind that papers may be cited because they present incorrect information, and other scholars have corrected it. In addition, authors can self-cite, thereby inflating the number of times an article is cited. See Drawbacks of citation searching for more details.

Other helpful tools to help you determine article importance are journal impact factor and h-index. Read more about them on the Journal Rankings page.

Social Sciences Citation Index

Social Sciences Citation Index via Web of Knowledge : A bibliographic and citation database that allows researchers to analyze scholarly trends and utilize citation tools

These tutorials were created by the Web of Science. We subscribe to the Social Sciences Citation Index, which is a part of the Web of Science. It can help you do some powerful citation searches. Learn how!

  • How to do a cited reference search
    Learn how to find citation activity for your work or the work of another author.
  • Citation Reports
    Learn how to create and export reports that detail citation activity for your work (i.e., h-index). 
  • Citation Alerts  
    Learn how to keep up to date on who is citing your work or the work of others within your field of research.

Citation Searching in Google Scholar

1. To find an author's works, go to Advanced Scholar Search and type in the last name and initials only. Search for variations as well; for example, "R Regin" and "RW Regin"

2. Look for the "Cited by" link below each result. This is the number of citations to this work that are indexed by Google Scholar. Click on that link to retrieve them.

Note: This is not a comprehensive search of all scholarly works, it is only a search of articles indexed in Google Scholar. It may include duplicates and some material may be missing. In addition, coverage is primarily medical, scientific, and technical.

See Google Scholar Help

Drawbacks of citation searching

The use of citation analysis to assess research output is contentious.

A large number of citations does not necessarily mean the work should be viewed as authoritative. Work can be cited by other authors for a number of different reasons and some of the recognised drawbacks when using citations are:

  • negative citation - a work is cited to criticise or correct
  • self citation - an author cites their own work
  • preferential citing of a brief paper in a prestigious journal than to a “more comprehensive paper” in a speciality journal
  • journal referees’ recommendations to authors, who have submitted work for publication approval, to include reference to the referee’s work
  • citation circles - friends citing friends
  • it is serials dependent - citation searching/analysis tends to concentrate on output in journals or conference proceedings and researchers in different disciplines vary in how much they communicate through these media.
  • restrictions on article length imposed by journal editors resulting in an author reducing the number of citations s/he would have originally provided

Likewise, not being cited does not invalidate a work. There are acknowledged reasons for this:

  • work doesn’t have to be cited to have influenced someone else’s work
  • delayed recognition - although work is cited most in the 10 years after its publication, some works may have a longer delay.
  • “obliteration by incorporation” I - review articles tend to be cited in preference to the individual papers reviewed and many uncited papers involve supersedure. E.g. Each new laboratory report by established investigators builds on and/or supersedes their own earlier work. It is not unusual to observe that after a
    decade of research, the entire corpus is superseded by a "review" which is preferentially cited by subsequent investigators
  • “obliteration by incorporation” II - incorporation into a subject’s accepted knowledge such that it can be quoted without the need for citation
  • newly published papers may not yet to be cited by others


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