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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Citation Tracking

The purpose of this guide is to provide advice on how to develop and organize a research paper in the social sciences.

Definition

Citation tracking refers to a method of measuring the impact of research studies and/or for identifying leading scholars in a particular discipline based upon a systematic analysis of who has cited a particular study, how often a specific research study has been cited by others, and by exploring what disciplines are represented by those subsequent citations.


Mavodza, Judith. Citation Tracking in Academic Libraries: An Overview. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, May 2016.

Importance of...

Citation tracking can facilitate the review and evaluation of pertinent literature related to your topic of study for the following reasons:

  1. It can be an effective way of using a highly cited "landmark" or influential article to find more recent, related articles that cite the original work. It also can be an effective way of identifying important scholars in a particular field who have subsequently cited the work.
  2. It can be a useful means for evaluating a study's "impact" within a particular discipline based upon the number of times a research study has been cited by others. A highly cited study may indicate that the research findings are unique, groundbreaking, or controversial in some way.
  3. It can be an effective way to locate studies that critique or challenge groundbreaking research, which is important if you are seeking research to support your attempt to challenge long-held assumptions or to offer evidence that existing studies do not adequately address the research problem.
  4. It can be an effective means of determining the interdisciplinary value of a particular study because you can identify the amount of subsequent citations to an article from publications in other disciplines or areas of study. Studies that have been cited in a variety of disciplines is also a strong indication of the research study's overall impact throughout the social sciences [and perhaps beyond].

When tracking citations, keep in mind the following points:

  • Authors do not always use the same name throughout their careers [e.g., Jane Anne Smith or Jane A. Smith] so be sure you work from a complete and accurate list of an author's publications. A thorough literature review of an author should reveal any variations in their name.
  • In the case of the Web of Science citation database, it uses APA style for citing authors [last name and first initial only], so a J Smith could be John, Jeff, Jane, Julie, Jason, etc. Be sure to truncate the initial [adding an asterisk *] to see a more complete list of authors, then locate a record on a topic you know the author writes about and click on that author to exclude articles written by other J Smith's. Fortunately, the database indexes more than the first author of a paper so if a second or third author has an uncommon name, you could search the unusual name instead of using an author's common name.
  • Citation services are primarily based on selected journal literature. If the author is cited in books, foreign language periodicals, or non-scholarly publications, the usefulness of your citation analysis is limited. In addition, citation databases such as Web of Science rarely cover articles published in scholarly open-access journals [journals published freely on the web], although this is slowly changing. In this case, be sure to check the "cited by" references in Google Scholar as it often includes citations found in other publications besides scholarly journals [e.g., book chapters, foreign publications].
  • Pay attention to how recent the citations are when reviewing a particular study. An article published in 2000 may have 130 total citations but if the most recent citation is from 2008, then this is an indication that the study's impact has faded or there is a lack of progress in the field [unlikely]. The absence of recent citations does not necessarily mean a study no longer has value, but it's a strong indication that more recent research has overtaken prior studies or that external factors have influenced scholars to focus on other areas of inquiry. Review the most recent citations and see if any are highly cited; this may reveal where the research has deviated into a new direction.

Bakkalbasi, Nisa. “Three Options for Citation Tracking: Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science.” Biomedical Digital Libraries 3 (2006): http://www.bio-diglib.com/content/pdf/1742-5581-3-7.pdf; Lawrence, D. J. “Journal Citation Tracking and Journal Indexing.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 15 (September 1992): 415-417; Kloda, Lorie A. "Use Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science for Comprehensive Citation Tracking." Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 2 (2007): 87-90; Mavodza, Judith. Citation Tracking in Academic Libraries: An Overview. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, May 2016; Weisbard, Phyllis Holman. “Citation Tracking: Citings and Sightings.” Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources 32 (Winter 2011): 21-25.

Resources for Tracking Citations

Databases/Search Engines

  • Communication Source -- use the "Cited References" search to find out how many times a specific article or author has been cited in the database.
  • CSA Illumina Databases (PsycINFO, COMM Abstracts, Linguistics & Language Behavior, Sociological Abstracts -- click on "advanced search" and choose the 'references' field from the drop-down menu.
  • Google Scholar -- search results that have been "cited by" reference followed by a linked number [i.e., cited by 53] indicate subsequent citations to the record. Note that rResults can be inconsistent.
  • HeinOnline -- includes a citation analysis tool which allows you to view the most cited law review articles. Search results include a "Cited by" link to a list of articles that cite that article or document.
  • JSTOR -- select "article locator" and search by author name and/or parts of the title. Click on the article title to see the number of times cited in the database (on the right). Most current publications not included.
  • Proquest Research Library -- click on "advanced search" and do a "Citation and Document Text Search." Find the author's name in footnotes by typing the author's last name.
  • Web of Knowledge -- select "Cited Reference Search" to find articles that cite the work(s) of an author. The database uses APA style of last name and first initial (e.g., Odell J*). Be sure to truncate the initial by adding an asterick after the letter (e.g., R*) to see a complete list of authors. The database does index more than the first author of an article.

Journal Publishers

  • Cambridge University Press -- there is no citation searching on this site per se, but you can enter name of full name of the author in "full text" text box to get results.
  • Elsevier ScienceDirect -- click the "Search tab. Enter the name of the author and choose "References" from the drop-down menu.
  • Sage Premier -- click on "advanced search" and select the "References" field from the drop-down box.
  • SpringerLink Journals -- there is no citation searching on this site per se, but you can enter name of full name of the author in "full text" text box to get results.
  • Wiley InterScience -- enter the name of the author and choose "References" from the drop-down menu.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.