Resources for Cited Reference Searching

If you ever find a great article that is exactly on your topic, but it is on the older side, you can use a citation database to see if someone has more recently cited that older article.  Students and faculty often use the Web of Knowledge platform (also known as the Web of Science) and Google Scholar to see who cited older literature.  Please note that we are offering a workshop on these databases on Friday the 27th of April.

When you go to the Web of Science, this will take you to the page where you can search for scholarly articles on your topic.  The default set of search results will come back in chronological order with the most recent at the top. Because the most recent articles appear at the top of the search results, they may not have any citations yet.  However, you can resort your results list a number of different ways, including “times cited.”  This is a good way to see to highest cited articles on a topic.  For example, here are the top three cited articles concerning global warming.

Once you find an older article, you can see how many times that article has been cited, and which more recent articles cited it.  Below is an article from 2004 that was co-written by a DU faculty member.  It is “Pollen-based Summer Temperature Reconstructions for the Eastern Canadian Boreal Forest, Subarctic, and Arctic.”

It should be noted that these 33 citing references are just from journal articles.  If there are any books, book chapters, conference papers or web-based reports that cite this 2004 article, they will not show up in the Web of Science.

Google Scholar can be used to see what other types of materials cite scholarly work, but just as with the Web of Science, it won’t find everything.  The sorting and search features are also not as robust as offered in the Web of Science.  Google Scholar indicates that the same article has been cited 38 times instead of just 33.  However, one should compare the results lists between Google Scholar and the Web of Science.  Each database may have found unique citations, so the total number of reference may even be in the 40s.

There are many other ways that these databases can be used.  These databases can also be used for checking to see if someone has cited books, book chapters, conference papers, websites, and more, but most people use citation databases to see if a specific article has been cited.  Please let us know if you have any other questions about citation searching.

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