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Literature Review Survival Library Guide: 5. Use citation databases

created by Alex D'Angelo

Use citation databases

If you find a seed article, or any other really good article, use a Citation Search to follow it forwards and find other articles which have cited that article, either because they support it or because they disagree with it.

The ISI Citation Database is on our database list under ISI WEB OF SCIENCE. There are three versions of it, covering the Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts and Humanities. You can search all three at once. This was one the main tool for citation searching.

Go to “Cited Ref Search” and type in the author’s last name, the journal in which his article appeared and the year it appeared in the appropriate boxes.  This will bring up the authors and articles that have followed or disagreed with that author.  

Unfortunately this database is not full text, but you can often get the full text of the articles off one or other of our alternative databases.  

In the past I demonstrated the ISI database in some detail – but I don’t do that so much nowadays because the ISI database now has competition – which is good because the ISI database only shows citing articles from those journals which are on its own (admittedly quite big) database. It misses others, and does not do books or book chapters.

Other databases like the EBSCO databases now have a similar function – and in fact are a bit more user friendly

The snag with both these databases and the ISI, is that they link only to cited references in the journals that they index.

The real breakthrough in citation searching nowadays in Google Scholar, which is huge, and indexes book chapters and theses too, which ISI did not.

You don’t even have to do a specialized citation search on this. Just search for the source you first identified as important and a link to the citing articles comes up too.

On a test I did across databases for articles citing the same source article  i found that on Google Scholar there were 45 links to citing articles, on ISI there were 7, on Academic Search Premier there was 1....

Btw - you’ll notice that Google Scholar brings up a full text link to our database holdings on this search – it only does this when searched on campus or through the off campus UCT login.)

There is also a more sophisticated way of getting the citation searches out of Google Scholar – a tool called Harzing’s Publish or Perish can be downloaded to your desktop (just Google the name) and strip mines Google Scholar very efficiently indeed.

But for a quick and dirty citation search you are probably better off with a straight Google Scholar search and a click on the cited-by link.

Next topic: Step 6: Find agreement & disageement