Cited reference searching

In this process you:

  1. Start with a reference (normally a journal article or book) that you have read and which is important for your research
  2. Search for other publications that have cited that reference

Why use cited reference searching?

If the reference that you started with was highly relevant to your research, other publications may have cited the reference that are also relevant to your research.

Cited reference searching is a useful alternative to keyword searching. With cited reference searching, you search with concrete search terms — the title and author of the cited reference.

Major databases

The following three databases are particularly useful for cited reference searching:

Web of Science

Web of Science incorporates three databases: Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index.  Web of Science will find citations in:

  • major journals
  • conference proceedings
  • some books.
  1. Type in details of the reference and click Search
  2. Confirm that the result is the same reference (title, author, year and other details)
  3. Times cited will show the number of publications that have cited the reference
  4. Click on the number to view the citations

For books, it is preferable to not enter a year of publication (because books are often reprinted in subsequent years).


Scopus will find citations in major journals and scholarly websites.

  1. Enter the title of the reference in the search box, enclosed in double quotation marks
  2. If necessary, add a second search field to also search for the author’s last name

If you can't remember the full title, try adding just the author's name and a few words from the title e.g. watson molecular structure nucleic acids. This example would find results where watsonmolecularstructurenucleic, and acids are in the same reference. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar will find citations in electronic journal websites and scholarly websites.

  1. Got to Google Scholar Advanced Search to display all the search options
  2. Use the exact phrase search box for the title of the reference
  3. For where my words occur select in the title of the article
  4. Use the return articles authored by search box for the author’s last name
  5. Search to locate the reference
  6. Click on Cited by to display the references which cite the reference.

Other approaches

In theory, you can perform cited reference searching in any full-text database. If the database contains the full text of books or articles, then you should be able to search the references and bibliographies of those books and articles. You can perform cited reference searching in journal article databases, such as:

 You can also use databases which contain the full text of books, such as Google Book Search.

There are other databases which contain abstracts only, but which index all the cited references in the articles which they abstract. PsycINFO is an example.

The search methods vary. In full-text databases you may have to use a search option such as All Fields or All Text and search for the title of the book or journal article. If possible, search for the title as a phrase. Some databases provide an option to limit your search to the cited references. 

Contact your librarian for further help with cited reference searching.