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Navigating Library Research: Unit 11: Who is Citing Whom?

Who is Citing Whom?

In this section we will look at the tools:

  • to find new, relevant research by doing a citation analysis of articles in your research area
  • that determine which journals are the most important in your field
  • to find out what ideas have had the greatest impact

Web of Science and Google Scholar are two databases that provide the capacity to look at who has cited certain articles. Many other databases provide this information when the citing articles are also in the database. These are powerful tools that let you see the impact of an idea over time.

Journal Citation Reports is a database that compares journals' impact in their fields. It provides detailed information on how often each journal's articles tend to be cited, where, and when. It does not, however, provide statistics for individual authors or articles.

If you're interested in measuring a particular article or scholar's impact, you may want to use both Journal Citation Reports and Web of Science. Use Journal Citation Reports to gather statistics on journals in which a scholar or article has been published, then follow up on the specific article in Web of Science. This can be may want to Ask a Librarian to help you learn to perform this process.

Activity: Citation Analysis

Citation Analysis Reports Using Web of Science

Topic Search:

 Run a search on your topic in the web of science database and answer the following questions.

  1. What was your search statement?
  2. How many items did you find?
  3. What are the three most important journals on your topic? Look at the entire list; are there any surprises?

Provide a print out of the journal list from the analysis.


Citation Report:

 Web of Science gives you very interesting information within the context of time and ideas. Using the same (or a different topic, if you prefer), run a search--but this time click on the link to do a citation report. You will be analyzing both the graphs and the citation report on the articles to answer the next few questions.

citation reports link from Web of Science

 What can you say about your topic and the graph provided by Web of Science.

  1. Select one of the articles (one with a lot of citing articles would work best).
  2. When was this article published?
  3. During what years did this article receive the most citations? Knowing your discipline, discuss the significance of this data.


Cited Author Search:

Select a well known researcher in your field. Do a cited author search for the name. This is not easy. Be sure you have the right person.


 Number of cited articles:

 Article with the most citations (provide reference):

 Is this article considered a “classic” paper? Why do you think it has been cited so often?


Have some fun!

 Pick one of your professors. Try to find them in Web of Science and see if his or her work is being cited.

 If you can't find any citations from your professors, why?

Pick another name from the faculty (any department) and try searching his or her name.

 Hint: If you're frustrated:...

Do an affiliation search (address field), combine it with a keyword under topic to narrow it down:


address field search in Web of Science

Citation Analysis

Citation analysis provides a way of looking at the relationships between published articles. Look at the references at the end of an article. The author cited each of these because they presented information that was important to discuss. Now, we will take that same article and find out who cited it. This will move us forward in time. The citing articles will all be newer and will illustrate how the ideas of the article in hand were discussed, supported or possibly refuted by subsequent research.

Web of Science (WoS): Auraria Library's subscription to WoS consists of the multidisciplinary indexes Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index. Over 7000 of the worlds leading, scholarly journals are indexed in the Web of Science.

Searching WoS

Two common means to search WoS is by topic or by cited author. In the example below, we are searching for citations to articles by Paul Sharp in Nature:

cited reference search in Web of Science

 WoS provides a list of all articles that cited any works by P. Sharp in the journal Nature. It lists how many times each article was cited. Each of these lists of references can be explored to find the most current research.

In the next illustration we see a section of the results from the above search.

 results of cited reference search in Web of Science

Journal Impact

Question: What is the most important journal in the field of cell biology?

There are many opinions on how to answer this question. One answer involves the impact factor for the journal:

From database vendor Thomson Reuters: " is a measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period".

A mathematical formula calculates the journal impact factor. You can read more about this through Thomson Reuters.

The database called Journal Citation Reports is the main source for data on journal impact.

screenshot from Journal Citation Reports


You may want to view Thompson Reuter's Journal Citation Reports tutorial before you use this database for the first time.


If articles in one journal tend to be cited more than articles from other journals it can be claimed that the more highly cited journal has greater influence within the discipline. Researchers will consider such a title an important resource and keep up with each new issue. It is considered more prestigious to publish in highly cited journals and it is more likely that the work will be studied by others.

Journal impact is highly dependent on the nuances of the discipline area. Online or web based journals, open access journals and the rise of databases that index small publishers have and will continue to have an influence on what is read, cited and considered important. With greater access provided to a more diverse set of journal titles, it is much more likely that an article in a lesser-known journal will "be discovered" and have an impact on subsequent research.