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How to find documents that cite a given article

Google Scholar: The Good

  • It's free and available to everyone.
  • You can access it without any special log-in.
  • It looks and functions the same way on most browsers.
  • The search function is easy to figure out.
  • It doesn't care about things like capitalization or using a particular format for author names.
  • It indexes a large number of publications from a wide variety of sources--it looks everywhere Google crawlers crawl.

Google Scholar: The Bad

  • It doesn't weed out duplicates of records. If your search turns up an article with 15 citations, it's impossible to say how many of those citations are duplicates of one another without examining each one.
  • It doesn't distinguish between published and unpublished sources--conference proceedings get counted just the same as journal articles--which can be a problem for tenure committees. 
  • Google doesn't share details about where it gets its information, how it finds it, and so forth. So it's hard to say how complete the information you're getting is.
  • Some critics[1] have noted that Google Scholar has trouble with "metadata" searches (searches for traditional cataloging items like author name or publication date) because its web crawlers tend to mis-identify names or numbers referenced in the full text as authors or dates. Again, because Google doesn't reveal its search methodology in any detail, it is hard to say whether these complaints are being addressed.


[1] See Peter Jacsó, 2010, “Metadata mega mess in Google Scholar,” Online Information Review (34)1: 175-91

Citation Searching in Google Scholar

The URL for Google Scholar is http://scholar.google.com/. Use the drop-down arrow if you want to go to the advanced search page.

Google Scholar search page

Most search results in Google Scholar will include a link at the bottom that says "cited by [N]." Clicking on this link will bring you to another results page that lists all the citing articles. 

A couple of tips for better Google Scholar searching:

  • If you don't know the title of the article you're searching for, use the advanced search function. There is a field there specifically for author names, and another for journal names. You can also limit your search to a particular range of dates. Using these limiters will help keep your number of results manageable.
  • Multiple keyword searches don't work very well in Google Scholar. In part, this has to do with the way Google's search engine works, and in part it has to do with the huge range of sources Google searches. If you know the title or part of the title of the article you're looking for, or if you know a key phrase, put that in the "with the exact phrase" box for best results.

If you need help with your search strategy, go to the Google Scholar Help page for tips.

Google Scholar for Advanced Users

Google Scholar has a set of metrics tools for users who want to track their citations or see how a journal is ranked. These tools are found in the upper right corner of the Scholar home page:

                                                                                                    

If you want to keep tabs on your citations, there are two ways to do it.

First, you can create a profile in "my citations." Simply click on the icon and follow the prompts. If you enter the titles of the publications you wish to track, Google Scholar will keep a running tab for you.

Second, you can create an alert.  The best way to do this is to search for the item or items you want to track, and once you've found a set of results you like, click the "alert" icon on the results page:  

This will bring you to a confirmation screen that looks something like this:

Once you click "create alert," Google Scholar will e-mail you every time it discovers a new citation to the article.

If you want to track citations by author name, it's important to include in your search all the ways you think that author's name might be listed in the citations. Connect them with OR. This kind of searching can be very tricky, however, as it's hard to say what characters and search operators Google's search engine pays attention to. Notice that in the example below, the initials are connected to the surname by a hyphen. However, Google will accept the search without a hyphen (the results are slightly different) and there's no explanation of what the hyphen does.

 

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