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Waidner-Spahr Library

Citation Searching: Why and How to Conduct a Citation Search

Why is a Citation Search helpful?

Citation searching primarily allows you to identify influential and seminal authors and works about a particular topic.

The number of times a single resource has been cited directly indicates its relevance in a particular field.

Citation searching reveals:

  1. How a source has been used over time
  2. What other resources relevant to a topic of research are available
  3. Themes within or around a particular topic of research

Performing a citation search is an excellent way to supplement a keyword search, particularly if you are beginning research in a new topic and only have a few keywords.

How to Conduct a Citation Search

Citation Searching is most commonly used in the fields of the Sciences and the Social Sciences, however it can be beneficial to all fields of study.

Waidner-Spahr Library at Dickinson College currently subscribes to hundreds of different databases, only some of which provide the ability to conduct a citation search. As our subscriptions change yearly, this guide will demonstrate how to conduct a citation search in the most common and stable examples: EBSCO and Web of Science.


A "citation search" can only begin by first having an initial search term. This generally is either an author or the title of a particular work.

You will search for a particular author or article/work.

1. If you search for an author:

A list of various works by that particular author will be generated.

  • Each of these will indicate the number of times that particular work has been cited by other works.
  • This allows you to see how prolific this particular author is in his/her field.
  • This allows you to see how the original author's work has been used, has affected his/her field, has developed over time.
  • This also will theoretically provide you with other potential sources to refer to for your own work. 

2. If you search for a particular article/work:

A list of various works that could be that particular work will be generated.

  • When you select a particular work, a list will generate populated by works which cited that selected work.
  • This allows you to see how influential a particular work is in a field of study
  • This allows you to see the various ways in which a single work is used, e.g. in other fields of study.


In the drop menu are specific examples of how to conduct these searches within Web of Science and EBSCO, as well as in Google Scholar.

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