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Information Literacy Graduates: Search methods and techniques

Learning outcomes

After studying this section you will know how and where to find the recent published literature you need by using the advanced search method "citation search".

Search methods

  • A citation search (checking the citations of a publication) gives you more recently published literature. This is the most advanced search method
  • Snowballing is using  the reference list of a key document as a starting point to find more literature
  • Pearl growing is searching for better and new search terms in SmartCat or databases.

More on search methods

Search techniques

  • Use Boolean searching
  • Use wild cards, synonyms and quotation marks.
  • Use a thesaurus to find broader, narrower or related terms.
  • Use the options for broadening or limiting your search when you get too few or too many results.

More on search techniques

Citation searching

citation search

Many of the publications you find will contain relevant bibliographies. The disadvantage is that these titles always pre-date the publication in which they are mentioned.

Citation searches reverse this process: who has cited the publication you have found? In this way you will find recent literature.

Some databases (e.g. Web of Science) have this option.

Citatiezoeken in Web of Science

Citation searching in Web of Science

More on citation searching

More information on citation searching, citation analysis and metrics in the evaluating tab, subtab Citation analysis and metrics.

Citation searching - extended

Citations are the connection between scientific publications. In this way authors make the connection between their own current research and previously published scientific publications.

The citation index indexes these credentials. In this way you can look ahead to what more recent research has been done based on the publication ("cited by").

Additionally, a citation search gives you the opportunity to look back to see on what previously published works the author has based his research ("cited references").

You will however need to use a database with bibliographical references. And options vary widely per database.

You can find citations in:

Finding citations: an example

  • Start a search in Web of Science (WoS) or Scopus
  • Click on a title that seems relevant to your subject
  • the 'cited by' gives the forward look.
    • The number shown in the right  frame indicates the number of times an article has been cited by other authors.
    • Click on the number to get an overview of more recently published articles.
    • You will find a reference to your initial selected article in the reference lists of these publications
  • By clicking on the article title you get an overview of references / bibliography: the previously published works the author has based his research on.