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Physics 4985: Cited Reference Searching

Guide for writing intensive physics course.

Cited Reference Searching


"By using the authors' references in compiling the citation index, we are in reality utilizing an army of indexers, for every time an author makes a reference he is in effect indexing that work from his point of view."  Eugene Garfield

What is cited reference searching?

Cited references are the articles, books or other materials listed in a bibliography or as works cited in a particular publication. Because citation databases index each reference, 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.

What are impact factors?

 Impact factor for journal X= The number of citations in a given year, to all articles published in journal X for the previous two years, divided by the number of articles in that journal for those previous two years.  

Why use cited reference searching?

  • To locate current research based on earlier research
  • To find out how many times and where a publication is being cited
  • To find out who is citing a particular paper
  • 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 history of a researcher
  • To determine how well your own published research is cited for promotion/tenure considerations

Where do I find cited reference searching? 

Cited reference searching is included in the following:

  • Scopus (all disciplines; comprehensive)
  • Google Scholar (all disciplines; comprehensive)
  • Academic Search Premier (all disciplines)
  • Biological Abstracts
  • Food Science and Technology Abstracts
  • PubMed
  • SciFinder Scholar

What should concern you about cited reference searching and impact factors?

  • Impact factors may play too important role in hiring and tenure decisions
  • Citation rates and impact factors vary widely from field to field and shouldn't be taken at face value, but considered relative to the field of research
  • Citation rate may be based on a few prolific authors citing each other, including self citations
  • Citation searching works better for journal articles than books
  • Cross-disciplinary research may produce fewer citations
  • Coverage of your particular field in the citation database may be weak
  • The research may too recent and not widely known, like emerging fields
  • Impact factors refer to the journal as a whole, not to individual papers
  • The quality of the journal producing the citation
  • Distribution of the citations over time might be more indicative of their importance than the immediacy of the impact factor
  • There is a growing tendency of some researchers to go after topics likely to get into high-impact journals, which jeopardizes creativity, can skew the course or even slow the pace of science
  • Some journals also cite articles in editorials, reviews news and other non-research articles to increase the number of cites and thus increase the impact factor of the journal
  • There is no guarantee that every paper which ought to be cited will be cited. An un-cited author may be ahead of his peers. Mendel and his genetics work went unappreciated for years

Where do I find the most cited journals in my field and their impact factors?

  • Journal Citation Reports (Science Edition)
    Ellis Library Ready Reference Z7403.S32 (1998-date)
  • Journal Citation Reports (Social Sciences Edition)
    Ellis Library Ready Reference Z7163.S62 (1998-date)

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