Old Dominion University Libraries

Resources for Faculty
Resources for Faculty

Need Help?

Ask A Librarian

Subject Guides

Tutorials & HowTos

Cited Reference Searching for Promotion /Tenure

What is Cited Reference Searching?

Cited reference searching is a way of finding articles that have cited a perviously published work. Because many databases index each citation listed in a bibliography, it is possible to search these cited references. One can follow a particular cited reference, or cited author, forward in time to find more current articles that have also cited that author or work.

You may wish to follow cited references for several reasons:

  • to locate current research based on earlier research, patents, reports, etc
  • to find out how many times and where a publication is being cited
  • to find out how a particular research topic is being used to support other research
  • to track the history of a research idea
  • to track the research of a colleague, or your own

Why use it for Promotion/Tenure?

At many universities, citation searching is used as one means of evaluating the research quality of faculty. The basic premise is that the more times an author is cited, the more important s/he is. Although a high number of citations can indicate that an author or article has had a major impact, other factors should be considered:

  • citation rates vary widely from field to field (e.g., an experimental physics publication may produce hundreds more citations than a theoretical humanities paper)
  • citation rate may be based on a few prolific authors citing each other
  • chronological distribution of citations might indicate the longevity of a paper's importance (e.g., 25 cited references spread out evenly over the past 5 years might have more impact than 100 cited references that all occurred over 5 years ago)
  • the quality of the journal producing the citation may need to be considered
  • citation searching works best for journal articles (not books)
  • international or cross-disciplinary research may produce fewer citations
  • coverage of the particular field in the citation database may be weak
  • the research may be too recent and not widely known

It is important to note that because of problems inherent in citation analysis, it should not be the only means of faculty evaluation.

Can I do my own citation search?

Yes. There are many options available.

ISI CITATION DATABASES. The first citation databases were produced by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) beginning in the 1950s (now owned by Thomson Reuters).   Science Citation Index (SCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI) are still considered the standard, most comprehensive sources for cited reference searching and are available through the Web of Science (on the ISI Web of Knowledge system). In addition to searching, Web of Science provides many features to assist with managing your references (eg, email alerts, citation analysis, export to EndNote).

Science Citation Index (SCI)

electronic: Web of Science, 1900-

Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI)

electronic: Web of Science, 1956-

Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI)

electronic: Web of Science, 1975-

How do I search the Web of Science?

SUBJECT DATABASES. Many subject databases now provide some form of cited reference searching:

  • For most of the items in the database, you may find a "Cited References" link which leads you to a list of references citing that particular item within that database. (e.g., CINAHL, PsycINFO, Communication and Mass Media Complete, PubMed, Sociological Abstracts, BioOne Abstracts)
  • Some provide a "Cited References" search option or "References" field to allow searching a particular publication to find references that cite it (e.g., many EbscoHost and Cambridge databases).
  • In databases with full-text articles, a keyword search of the entire documents will include the list of references (e.g., ABI/Inform).

ELECTRONIC JOURNAL COLLECTIONS. Because electronic journal collections include references within articles, it is possible to search the entire text (e.g., Project Muse, etc). Even better is that many of the collections identify and provide links to citing articles (e.g., JSTOR, , Science Direct, Sage Online, ACM, etc).

GOOGLE SCHOLAR. Google Scholar is a free resource that includes materials "from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations" on all topics. Many of the articles will include the number of articles citing that item ("Cited by ##") and will link to them.

BOOKS. Finding citations in books is problematic. The growing availability of full-text electronic book collections will make citation searching in books more feasible in the future. You may wish to try Google Book Search, Google's project to "digitize the world's books" -- "author last name, first name" to find cited references in books.

INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES. Another approach is to search "author last name, first name" in various Internet search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc) to find out if anyone is referencing your works in Web pages (e.g., bibliographies, course reading lists).

It is important to note that when searching databases, the cited references found are usually only those contained in that database. Using EndNote to collect references from all databases is a good way to deal with duplicates that will appear.


Karen Vaughan