Citation chasing is a research strategy used to expand a search for articles on a research topic by retracing the steps of authors. What makes citation chasing a useful research strategy is that helps you tune into the scholarly conversation on a subject, while providing a viable way to locate additional relevant sources.
In order to begin citation chasing you need at least one scholarly source. One that pertains to your research topic. For more information on scholarly sources, including how to find them, please check out our What Are Scholarly Sources tutorial.
Citation chasing can go in two directions: backward and forward. This guide covers both. It should also be made clear that there are several ways to chase citations, the methods described herein are but a few. If you would like more assistance with the research process please Ask a Librarian.
Start with a scholarly source that you know works well for your topic. A scholarly source is preferable because it's more likely to include a list of citations at/near the end.
As you read the article, keep an eye out for content that meets your information needs. When you find relevant information, look for an in-text citation. It could be a superscript number as the example shows below, but it could come in several other forms. Another common in-text citation that you will encounter is the author-date format, which looks like this: (Schirano, 2020).
Once you've identified useful information and have located the corresponding in-text citation, go to the References list to see the full citation for that source. A reference list can go by many names, including a List of Citations or a Bibliography, but it almost always can be found toward the end of the article. Similarly, there are a lot of different citation styles, meaning the citations you find will be formatted in many different ways. That being said, the information within a citation should essentially be the same. It's all of the information you need in order to locate and obtain that source yourself.
The strategy described above is a great way to identify relevant sources because you're tapping into the expertise and prior research of the author(s). Many research articles contain literature reviews which describe all of the prior research conducted that is related to their own work. By finding an article relevant to your information needs and searching through their list of references, you're essentially browsing a curated list of sources. Very helpful!
Once you've obtained the full citation for a source, now you want to see if it's something we have full-text access to. This portion of the tutorial describes the process of determining whether we have full-text access to an individual article. It's important to note that, if you are trying to obtain full-text access to an individual article, that you follow this process. Do not pick a database at random and search, as it's likely the article is obtained from a different database from the one you choose. The process described here takes the random guesswork out of the process.
To start, click the Journals tab on the library homepage and search for the title of the journal that published the article you're looking for.
After running the search you will be brought to a page of results. If we have access to the journal it will show up on this page. If you do not see the journal listed here, double-check your spelling. Incorrect spelling will cause the search to yield zero results. If you have correctly spelled the title of the journal and do not see it listed, that means we do not have any full-text access to the journal. To obtain the full-text of an article we do not have in our collection, submit an InterLibrary Loan request.
If you see the title of the journal on the results page, click on the title.
You will see a box like the one below after clicking on the title of the journal. The important area in this box is where it says Full text availability. You should see at least one database listed here, though you may see several. These are the databases that have some form of access to the journal. Look at the citation for the source you want to obtain, and see when it was published. You need to select a database that has access to a date range that includes your article. In the example above, the article was published in 2013. The Education Database provides access to articles published within 2013 and so would be a viable option. However, if you look at CINAHL Plus with Full Text, that database's access ceases after 2010.
If you do not find a database with the appropriate date range to obtain your article, submit an InterLibrary Loan request. If you do find a database with the right range, click on the title of the database to move to the next step.
At this point the process will visually vary depending on the database used to access the article, but the general principles are the same. The example below shows the two most common options available. You can use the search box to search within the publication. This means you can run a keyword search that looks only within that journal, instead of within every journal the database provides access to. This can be useful if you know that journal frequently publishes articles that meet your information needs.
The other option is the one relevant to this tutorial. Using the full citation you found, you can navigate to the specific issue in which the article was published. In the example above, the article was published in 2013, in volume 52, issue 8. Narrow down to the volume and/or issue provided within your citation and click on it.
Tip: If you are missing a volume or issue number (or both), try Googling the title of the article. One of the first results should be the publisher's webpage for the article that allows people to purchase access. You don't want to purchase it, but that page should contain all of the information about the article, including volume and issue numbers if they exist.
After clicking on the appropriate volume and/or issue you will be brought to a list of all the articles published within it. At this point you simply need to look for the title of the article. Keep in mind there can be many articles published within a single volume and/or issue, and there may be multiple pages to look through. If you do not see the title of the article on the first page, continue looking.
Tip: Most commonly, the articles are listed in the order they appear in the print issue. The complete citation should include page numbers. The list of articles will also display the page numbers. Searching using the page numbers can be an efficient way to locate the article.
The process describes above is great, Librarians use it all the time with success. However, it is worth noting that the process only looks backwards. That is, by looking through the Reference List you are only looking at sources published prior to when your article was created. The authors could not possibly have included research that hadn't been conducted yet! It doesn't mean the process is useless, but you will also want to to look at what has been published since that article was published.
There are many ways to do this, one common way is by using Google Scholar. To start, search for the title of the article you have.
On the results page, look for your article. It's likely to be the only result, but there may be a few others. Look in the details under the title for 'Cited by' followed by a number. You won't always find this, especially if an article was published within the last few months, but it will often be visible. Click on 'Cited by' if you see it.
You will be brought to a list of sources. All of the sources list your article within their Reference List! Instead of looking backward, now you are looking forward. By combining the two methods, you are now starting to look at a scholarly conversation on a particular topic over a period of time.