Jumbled text. By Pink Sherbet Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/
For more help with article-level citation counts see: Bibliometrics - a Practical Guide

Citation searching

Searching for information, whether that be on the Library Catalogue or on a database, ‌usually involves a search by subject keywords and descriptors. A less common but often highly effective search technique known as citation searching is also available.

Citation searching (also known as cited reference searching) can be used if you have already identified a relevant book or journal article on the subject you are researching.

Starting from the book or journal article you have identified, citation searching takes you forward in time by identifying more recent documents that cite that book or article.

In summary, citation searching enables you to:

  • find out if articles or books have been cited by other authors
  • discover references to a particular author
  • find more recent papers on the same subject
  • track the history of a research idea and discover if it has been confirmed, applied, improved, extended or corrected.

Citation searching usually works best if your known reference is of high quality, is authored by leaders in the field, and is limited to the subject you are researching.

How it works

Kerfoot, D. and Knights, D. (1993). Masculinity, Management and Manipulation. Journal of Management Studies, 30, 659-679 is an important article in my field of research. What documents since 1993 have cited this reference?

Using the Cited Reference Search on Web of Science finds over 100 documents from 1993 to date, which give the Kerfoot article as a reference.

Databases that allow citation searching

While all resources are continually expanding their scope, no one tool provides complete coverage.

Generally, Web of Science and Scopus offer good coverage of the sciences and social sciences. Google Scholar has good coverage of all subjects, but its tools are less robust and there is little quality control. Coverage of the humanities, especially where there is more reliance on books, is limited.

More and more databases are now including citation information and will have Cited By, Times Cited or similar links in their article records. Examples include Business Source Premier, MathSciNet, PubMed and PsycINFO.

Google Scholar

"Cited by" on Google Scholar

For many items Google Scholar includes a Cited by link which also acts as a link to the citing documents. Citation searches for both journal articles and books can be carried out in Scholar.

Keep in mind that Google Scholar includes citations from an array of sources in its cited by calculation, including PowerPoints and Word documents, and gives everything an equal rank.


Scopus is considered by many to be the main competitor to the Web of Science database for citation analysis. To perform a citation search, locate the article or book you are interested in and on the document details page look right to see the section Cited by.

Please be aware that Scopus' citation counts are not complete. Only citations from documents covered by Scopus from 1996 to present are included.

Create a citation alert

Under Cited by, look for:

Inform me when this document is cited in Scopus:

Web of Science

To perform a citation search on Web of Science, locate the article you are interested in (Web of Science only indexes journal articles so you cannot perform citation searches for books), and from the results page look right to see the Times Cited information. Click on the title to view the full record and to see the full details for citations.

Cited reference search

If you need to be more systematic in your approach, you can perform a Cited Reference Search on Web of Science to try and find all citations even when others have incorrectly cited the original source.

Citation alerts

Create citation alerts and receive notification by email whenever your article is cited in the future. A very easy way to keep up-to-date.

Remember: When Web of Science counts citations, it is only counting citations from articles indexed by Clarivate Analytics, the company that owns Web of Science.