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Guide to Searching

Develop a search strategy using keywords and boolean operators. Dig deeper to learn about different ways to search and locate information.

Citation Searching

This page was created to help you:

  • Define citation mining and forward and backward citation searching
  • Decide if citation mining is a useful strategy for your research
  • Compare and contrast citation mining strategies for different applications

One way to locate sources for your research is to use keyword searching. Another way is to search for citations.

When to Search Citations

Citation searching is useful when you want to analyze literature in a way that keyword or subject searching does not allow, such as when you are exploring a new area of study and are either studying the current state of research in that area or are still learning the language of the topic.

Citation searching is good for:

  • Gathering relevant literature quickly
  • Identifying good and appropriate keywords for future searches
  • Using the knowledge and research of the original author, through citation, to save time
  • Mapping out a scholarly conversation in a particular area

There are limitations to searching citations:

  • Citation search engines skew heavily towards scholarly articles and may not capture the full conversation (eg., it will exclude popular media or books).
  • Citation practices vary by discipline, and citation practices by a small group of people can perpetuate poor citation ethics by self-citing or only citing one another.
  • If you want to find cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary information on different topics than the starting article discusses, also perform keyword searches.

The first step in most citation searches is to locate a starting article or author. For many students, a great place to find a starting article is on your syllabus. You can also Read for Citations.


Citation mining is a term used by expert searchers to describe the act of using citations to locate additional articles related to a research topic. Citation mining helps you find literature from other literature!

Forward Citation Search: A search to find all of the articles that cite back to a specific article. This search looks forward in time to see how this article contributed to the scholarly conversation.

Backward Citation Search: A search to find all of the cited references in a single article. This search looks backwards in time to see what led to the article you start with.

Author Citation Search: A search to find all articles by an author or group of authors.

Did you know? Web of Science was the first tool that was really built to perform this type of search. Today, this feature is available on many platforms.


Not all databases can do a forward and backward citation search, but most will let you search by an author name. Here are examples from a few of the databases that can perform this type of search:

Google Scholar

Starting Citation

Noble, S. U. (2013). Google Search: Hyper-visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible. InVisible Culture: Issue 19.

Forward Looking Citation Search

  1. Enter the title into Google Scholar.
  2. Underneath the search result, there will be a link that says, "Cited by ____"
  3. Click that link to see articles that cite back to the article you searched.

two articles in a google scholar search. CIted by link is highlighted.

Once you click on the "Cited by ____" you can perform an additional keyword search by checking off this box under the search bar: "Search within citing articles."

search within box highlighted on Google Scholar page.

Author Citation Search

Use the Advance Search form or type "author:"

Google scholar author search


Web of Science

Web of Science offers many different pathways to perform all types of citation searches. You can pull a report of forward looking citations using the "Cited Reference Search," or look up the starting article first, and select forward or backward citations from one place.

Starting article

Cooke, Nicole A., et al. “Social Justice as Topic and Tool: An Attempt to Transform an US Curriculum and Culture.” Library Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 107–24. doi:10.1086/684147.

Article Records

Use this search if you want to see forward and backward looking citations from one screen.

  • Search using the 'basic search' for the article title.
  • Select the correct article from the search results.

Cited references are linked on the right side of the screen under "Citation Network."

individual article record with forward and backward citation highlighted

Cited Reference Search

Use this search if you want to pull all forward looking citations for an individual article. It can also be used to pull all cited references for an individual author. This is a two-step search. First, enter the information you have about the citation into the form. The second screen will ask you to select potential variations in the system to confirm the article is correct. This helps account for typos or errors in the way people may have cited the article.

cited reference search form

Author Search

This is a new feature that will create an automated list of all articles in Web of Science for an author. Click on the "Author Search" tab, and enter what you know about the author's name. You will be brought to a second screen where you can select all the variations for this name in Web of Science. After you confirm the list, the next screen will be a list of all articles for that author.

author search form last name and first name are filled out

IEEExplore Digital Library

IEEE offers a citation search option as well as forward/backward citation indexing. Forward looking citations are limited to other articles within the IEEExplore platform.

Starting Article

J. A. Leydens, "What does professional communication research have to do with social justice? Intersections and sources of resistance," 2012 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, Orlando, FL, 2012, pp. 1-13, doi: 10.1109/IPCC.2012.6408592.

Citation Search

From the main search box, select "Citation Search."

citation search drop down menu

Forward and Backward Citation

Each article has cited references, the backward citation search, listed in the individual article record menu. If there are forward looking citations found, there will also be a "Citations" link.


Author Search

In IEEExplore, you can click on any author name in a list of search results, and you will be brought to a page summarizing their work. Alternatively, you can search for an author by selecting "Author" from the main search drop-down menu.

author search drop down menu


SocINDEX is a database available on the EBSCO platform. This search will look the same across the EBSCO platform.

Note: Not every record will show the citation links.

If there is an index for the bibliography, or the forward-looking citations, there will be a link to a list of the bibliography for each article.

The second record in this image has the citation links and the first does not.

two records from socINDEX red arrow pointing at the citation links

Learning Objectives

This page was designed to help you:

  • Define citation mining and forward and backward citation searching
  • Decide if citation mining is a useful strategy for your research
  • Compare and contrast citation mining strategies for different applications
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