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Social Work: Reference Searching

Introduction to Forward & Backward Searching

Backward Citation Search

What is "Backward Citation Searching?"

The list of works cited by an author gives you a picture of the thinking and research up to the time the article was published. It takes you back in time, telling you what sources, and theories have influenced the author's work. This may also help you identify key authors in a field. Looking at the reference list of sources cited by an author is called "bibliographic mining," "cited reference searching," or "backward citation searching." 

backward citation search

The sources from Thao's reference list                                                     

How Can I Do This?

As you read and article, note citations of interest as you read, and scan the article reference list for authors and articles that interest you. You may search for specific articles and authors using a database or try Research@UWW

Click here for a brief demonstration of citation searching using Research@UWW

Forward Citation Search

What is "Forward Citation Searching?"

Citation searching can take you forward in time from the article you begin with. This is sometimes referred to as "forward citation searching." This may help you assess the importance of an article to subsequent - or more current - research in a field.  Look for "Cited by" links (Google Scholar) and "Times cited" (EBSCOhost-ERIC) links in your search results.

forward search

The Cited Article                                 The Citing Articles

A word of caution: Keep in mind that a citing author may reference an earlier study for many reasons. The citing author may be supporting or refuting arguments in the original research article.

How can I do this?

Databases such as Web of Science, and search engines such as Google Scholar, include information about who cited a particular reference. Look for "Cited by" or "Times Cited" features. 

tutorial Click here to view a brief video demonstration using Google Scholar. This video includes audio explanations.

tutorialClick here to view a brief demonstration using Web of Science (no audio)

tutorialClick here to view a brief demonstration using a Sage Journal (no audio)