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Cited Reference Searching: A How-To Guide

This guide covers search techniques and resources that offer the ability to search the list of references (or footnotes) found in journal articles, books, websites, etc.

First Steps

Make sure you have the citation to an article(s) you want to start with.

Look through this Cited Reference Searching introduction (2:36 mins., University of Louisville, 2021).

Test out some searches in the main databases listed on this page.

What is it?

Cited Reference searching is the ability to search the list of references (or footnotes) found in journal articles, books, dissertations, websites, etc. It is based on the premise that you have a scholarly work in-hand that you really like and you want to see who else has used that work in their research - ergo, have included it in their list of references (or footnotes). Typically, cited reference searching involves looking for works by a particular author or for a specific piece of scholarship.

Main Databases

There is not just one source for cited reference information - regardless of what subject you are researching.

The 3 "main" databases each have their strengths and weaknesses. None of them should be used exclusively.

Web of Science (WoS) is the name of the software umbrella under which several databases reside. Researchers interested in cited reference searching would find the following WoS databases useful:

Using some little known features of Web of Science you can:

  • look for an average citation rate for a specific journal (e.g., American Journal of Botany, Economics and Philosophy, etc.) and compare it to citation rates for your own publications in the same journal.
  • look for the average number of citations to ISU faculty publications in a specific department on campus and compare it to publications from comparable departments at other institutions.
  • generate a citation report for any search set you can create (excluding cited reference searches).

The Specialized Citation Reports link below describes how to do these things. If you need assistance/advice, please contact the librarian on the right side of this page..

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. It is designed very similar to the main Google search, but the results are limited to just scholarly sources: papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. One of the key features is that it will show how many times a piece has been cited within Google Scholar.

Typical Results look like this: Gschneidner Metallurgy or Wells Psychological Uncertainty or Cravens American Culture. Notice that the social sciences and humanities search results contain more information on books, book chapters, and other types of non-journal resources. Google Scholar is also ideal for interdisciplinary fields - such as in this search for papers by Wallace Huffman, ISU Economist, dealing with agricultural economics: Huffman Human Capital.

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Lorrie Pellack
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