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InfoSkills for Humanities & Digital Sciences

InfoSkills @ TiU

Google Scholar: Citation searching

What is (a) citation?

The term 'citation' means 'the practice of citing sources'. It also means: 'a reference to a source of information, especially in science'.  

Two kinds of citations are used in academic publications: in-text citations and full citations. 

  • In-text citations are short notations that identify a source. They must be included when an idea or evidence from that source is incorporated into the text.
  • Full citations provide all of the information necessary for the reader to find a source. They must be provided for every source referred to (cited) in the text. The complete list of full citations, usually added at the end of the text, is called 'References', 'Bibliography', or 'Works Cited', depending on the field of study.

What is citation searching?

Citation searching is a search method that you can use if you have already identified a key publication (a highly relevant publication on your topic).

There are two kinds of citation searching: backward and forward.

  1. BACKWARD citation searching is looking at the full citations listed in the reference list of your key publication and identifying useful ones. The items you find examining your key publication's reference list are cited publications (i.e. publications cited by the key publication). Note that backward citation searching is only useful for finding publications that are older than your key publication.
  2. FORWARD citation searching is identifying newer publications on the same or similar topic that cite your key publication. These are called citing publications (i.e. publications citing the key publication).

Here's a graph that visualizes the citation relationships between the key publication and its cited & citing publications: 

How does forward citation searching in Google Scholar work?

Google Scholar tracks how many times an item is cited by other documents in Google Scholar, such as articles and books from Google Books. 

It's really very simple. Clicking on a 'Cited by' link will display a list of publications from Google Scholar that cite your key publication. To view citing articles from the library database Web of Science , click on the link of the same name. 

Related articles

Clicking on 'Related articles' will get you a list of articles ranked by the number of shared publications listed in the reference list. This ranking is based on the assumption that articles which have a large percentage of their cited sources in common must be discussing similar topics.