How to Conduct a Cited Reference Search

This type of search enables you to determine approximately how many times an author or a specific publication has been cited in other published works. However, a perfect or comprehensive method does not exist.

The Web of Science

This is the only database that is built around the notion of citation analysis. You will certainly want to start here, but you may want to pursue other routes as well.

What It Does

You can look up an author or a specific work and find out how many articles in the database have this author or work in their footnotes/references.

What It Doesn't Do

It does not index the footnotes of books or essays published in books. Therefore, it can't tell you whether or not your author was cited in a book or in an edited collection.

It does not index every journal in every field, only a selection of what it regards as core titles. For example, its Social Sciences section "indexes more than 1,725 journals across 50 social sciences disciplines, and it indexes individually selected, relevant items from over 3,300 of the worlds leading scientific and technical journals (Source: Web of Science Help files). By contrast, Sociological Abstracts draws on over 2,600 journals for a single field. Similarly, the Arts and Humanities section of the Web of Science "fully covers 1,144 of the world's leading arts and humanities journals, and it indexes individually selected, relevant items from over 6,800 major science and social science journals." By contrast, the MLA Bibliography draws content from "4,400 periodicals (including peer-reviewed e-journals) and 1,000 book publishers."

Instructions for Citation Searching in the Web of Science

  1. On Web of Science's opening screen, select the cited ref search. Enter the author's name (last name [space, no comma] first initial *), and the year the item you are interested in was published. Try with and without the "cited work" line filled in. It can be problematic.
  2. Then click search. You then see a list titled "Cited Reference Index." Each line refers to a work that matches your search criteria. The same work may be referenced in several lines because of slight differences in the data (different cited pages for example.) The number at the start of each line is the number of times that reference has been cited in other works.
  3. Check the boxes in front of all relevant lines and click Finish Search. This generates a list of articles that cite one or more of the items you selected.
Explanatory Notes
  1. On the first screen, if a single piece is cited more than once in the same article, the count will reflect each time the piece is cited--that would tend to inflate the count.
  2. On the other hand, if a single citing article (the second screen) cites more than one piece by the author, it still shows up only once, thereby reducing the count.

Additional Strategies

I. Databases That Index Article References

Look for subject-specific databases that include references in the item record. For example: the following databases accessed through the CSA Illumina interface have recently started offering this feature.

  • BioOne
  • Communication Abstracts
  • Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Criminology: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • CSA / ASCE Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Education: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Management & Organization Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Materials Science: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Mechanical & Transportation Engineering Abstracts
  • Nursing & Health Sciences: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Political Science: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • PsycBooks
  • Psychology: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • PsycINFO (comprehensive coverage of cited references from 2001 forward, some cited references from 1998)
  • Social Services Abstracts (cited references from all journal articles from 2004 forward)
  • Sociological Abstracts (cited references from core journals from 2002 forward; cited references from all other journals from 2004 forward)
  • Sociology: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Urban Studies & Planning: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (cited references from core journals from 2001 forward; cited references from all other journal articles from 2004 forward)
What They Do

They include the list of cited references in the database record for an article.

What They Don't Do

They do not always include references for every item indexed-see descriptions of each database for details.

How To Use
  1. If you want to know how many times a piece indexed by the database has been cited, look it up and there will be a "cited by [number]" link in the results that indicates how many other items in the database are known to have this item among its references.
  2. You may limit your search to the "References" field and look for all records with a given author or title in the list of references. This is a broader search than option 1 because it also works for items that are in notes but are not themselves separately indexed in the database.

II. Search For Your Author or Work in a Full-Text Database

In addition to the full-text collections in the CSA list above, other good databases to search full-text include:

  • J-Stor
  • Project Muse
  • Expanded Academic
  • Business Source Premier
  • HighWire
What They Do

Full-text collections generally allow you to search the entire body of an article, including its notes.

What They Don't Do

Most full-text searchable databases do not index the different parts of the article in any detail. You may not be able to limit your search to references. (The full-text collections in the above CSA list are exceptions).

There are no comprehensive full-text collections. Know the limitations of the database so that you know how to interpret your results.

III. Search Online

  1. A growing number of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles are available online and have been indexed by the major search engines. So try doing a Web search and be prepared to wade through the hits to find relevant results.
  2. Google's book scanning project is also beginning to be useful for citation searching. You can search the full text (including the bibliography) of books and generate a list of results even when you aren't able to open them for copyright reasons.