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Find Sources: Identify Key Sources

What are influential and essential key sources?

  • Sometimes called a "seminal work" or "landmark work"
  • Key to a topic or area of interest regardless of the date they were written
  • Influential in the area of research that you are exploring

Method #1: Compare Reference Lists/Bibliographies/Works Cited

  • Consult the footnotes, parenthetical references, and other in-text citations on your topic.
  • Identify sources that show up on multiple lists. These may be key sources.

Method #2: Identify sources that are "cited by" a high number of sources

  • Many databases allow you to explore how often a source is cited.
  • Sources that have been cited many times are often important and influential.
  • Review the Top Picks: Find Influential and Key Sources for recommended places to get started.

Method #3: Identify sources cited in Dissertations and Theses

  • Review other students' dissertations and theses on similar topics. Pay attention to the "Literature Review" section to identify what authors and sources they selected​.

Method #4: Identify sources cited in Review Articles

  • Review articles look to summarize the current status of research on a topic.
  • In some databases, you can narrow the type of article to "review."
  • Typically, in a review article, the author is looking for things such as: 
    • Key people
    • Major advances
    • Current debates
    • Where the research might go next

Find influential and essential key sources

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