Go Forwards in Time with Citation Tracking
As it’s vital for researchers to consult a variety of external sources when conducting research, such as in a literature review, you might use a bibliography to find additional sources (like we discuss in our Bibliography Hacking article!). But what if there was a way to find out who cited the article you have in your hands after it was published? Is there also a way to track articles forwards in time?
There is indeed! The process of finding works that cite a work you have is known as citation tracking.
San José State University Library defines citation tracking as, “... a way of measuring the relative importance or impact or an author, article, or publication, by counting the number of times that author, article, or publication has been cited by other works,”
To track citations, you can use a number of different research databases.
When might you want to use citation tracking?
There are a number of times when you might want to find other works that cite a particular source:
- You’ve found a great source, but it’s a bit older, and you want some more current sources that deal with the same idea.
- You want to see what else an author has written on a topic.
- You’re tracing how an idea has developed over time, for example, in a literature review.
- Just like with bibliography hacking, you want to use your source to find other sources on the same topic.
- You’re a faculty member putting together a tenure and promotion dossier and you need to show how often your work has been cited by others.
How to do a citation tracking search
Unfortunately, there is no one-stop database for conducting a citation tracking search. Depending on your topic, you may need to search in a few places.
First, if you can remember where you found your source article, it can be worth going back to the database you found it in and seeing if there’s some kind of “Cited by” link that leads you to other articles.
Web of Science
Web of Science was the first major database offering citation tracking through Cited Reference Search, and it still is a great place to start. If your university has a subscription to this database, make sure to use it.
To search in Web of Science, switch to the Cited Reference Search. Select “Cited Author” from the dropdown menu on the right. In the second field, enter either the journal name, and then select “Cited Work” or enter the title, and then select “Cited Title”. If you see more than one entry, don’t worry. This often happens due to spelling variations or the citation of in-press articles. For matching articles, under the “Citing Articles” column, click the number to view the articles that cited the work.
Scopus is another subscription-based database, which was developed in response to Web of Science. It is designed to be a little user friendlier and lets you search for an article title on its own in addition to a particular author. In addition, Scopus breaks down citations by subject and can also track citations by organization. You can also view a “citation overview” that shows you how citations developed over time.
To use Scopus to search for citations for a particular article, use the “Documents” search. Make sure that the dropdown menu is showing “Article title, Abstract, Keywords” and then enter the title of your article. Click "Search". For the results that match your article, under “Cited by”, click the number to view works that cited the article.
Since Web of Science and Scopus have differing coverage and since both have a focus on journal articles, you should also use Google Scholar’s “Cited by” option to find sources not covered by the other two databases. Google Scholar also has the advantage of being freely accessible if you don't have access Web of Science and Scopus through your university library.
To use Google Scholar for citation tracking, just enter some of the article details, such as author names and the title, and then click search. Then, under the result that matches best, click the “Cited by n” link that appears below the result.
Searching other databases
Beyond the three main resources for citation tracking, many other databases also have a citation tracking option. However, the name of the option can vary. “Find citing articles”, “citation locator”, “items citing this item”, and “references”, are just some of the versions you may encounter.
It’s a great idea to check if the discipline-specific databases you use offer some form of citation tracking. This is also a good idea if you’re not finding many results. Web of Science and Scopus both work best in STEM fields with some coverage of the Social Sciences, too. So, if you're working in the Humanities, you'll likely have better luck with JSTOR's citation tracking features, since JSTOR is one of the major Humanities databases.
Transferring results to your reference management software
Once you’ve found some other articles that cite the article you have, you can use the database’s export options to transfer them to your reference management software. If you’re working with Citavi, you can follow our guides for importing from Web of Science and Google Scholar. Once the references in your software, you can then record the connections between different sources, search for the full text and start reading and analyzing the articles.
Like bibliography hacking, citation tracking is a great way to find additional sources without having to come up with new search terms. If you’re having trouble locating additional articles on your topic, it can help turn up works you might never have found otherwise. If you’re struggling with writing a literature review, check out our Top 10 Tips for Writing a Literature Review article which provides general tips and resources for how to use Citavi to create an outline.
Citation tracking is a great way to help you have a more thorough, defensible study or literature review. We hope you’ll give it a try!
Do you find citation tracking to be a helpful search strategy? Share your thoughts with us on the Reference Management Group in the Lumivero Community.