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Find Sources: Use One Relevant Source to Find Others

How can I use one relevant source to find similar ones?

There are two general methods for using a single relevant source that you already found (such as a journal article or book) to find related sources:

Method #1: Citation Chasing (Searching Backwards)

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What is citation chasing?

  • Using the references cited in one source to identify other relevant sources.
  • Identifies related material published before the source that is used as a starting point.

How do I use citation chasing?

  1. Consult the footnotes and other in-text citations used by the author of your source to support their argument, especially where the author is making points relevant to your project.
    • "… while the federal government via the Morrill Land Grant Acts established later institutions (Anderson, 1988; Jenkins, 1991; Wennersten, 1991).”
    • You would look at the sources cited that were authored by Anderson, Jenkins, or Wennersten.  You will likely need to find the full citation of the source in the bibliography in order to search for them.
  2. Scan the bibliography as a whole to see if other relevant titles are cited.
  3. Use Primo and other search tools to determine the availability of any new sources you’ve identified in steps 1 and 2.

How is this helpful? 

  • Highlights other potentially relevant sources.
  • Identify relationships between scholars and schools of thought.

What are the limits?

  • This method can only identify sources published before the source.
  • Starting with a more recent source could yield more recent results.

Method #2: Cited Reference Searching (Searching Forwards)

What is cited reference searching?

  • Searching for others sources that cite a source you know to be relevant
  • Typically involves the use of specialized features in Google Scholar, Web of Science, some ProQuest and EbscoHost databases, and other search tools
  • Identifies materials published after the source used as a starting point

How do I use cited reference searching?

  1. Pick a search tool such as Google Scholar or Web of Science
  2. Search for a known source.
  3. Look for the link that says “Cited by,” “Times cited,” or similar language. This is usually below or beside the listing for your source in the search results.
  4. Click on this link to bring up a list of other sources that cite the known source in question.

How is this helpful?

  • Highlights other potentially relevant sources
  • Identify relationships between scholars and schools of thought

What are the limits?

  • The number of cited references is limited to what is included in the tool you are searching.
    • For example, the cited by number in Google Scholar is often higher than the number in Web of Science because Web of Science includes less sources than Google Scholar.
  • Can only identify sources published after the known source
    • A newer source may not have been cited by others yet because of the relatively slow time frames often associated with academic publishing
  • Can only identify relationships between sources where all sources in question are listed in the search tool 

Related Guides

Resources to Help Find Primary Sources

Guide: find primary sourcesGuide: Find newspapers 

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