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TRIO McNair Undergraduate Research Guide: Citation Mining


Citation mining refers to a method of tracking down sources similar to an ideal source for your assignment. This is achieved by looking in a source’s references or works cited, as well as identifying sources that have cited your ideal source.  

Going Back in Time

Checking the references listed by an author helps you understand which sources and theories influenced them in the writing of their work, and chances are that the sources listed here will be similarly relevant to your topic. This can also help you locate prominent authors in the field. 


Image from UW-Whitewater Libraries.

How to Mine Backwards in Time 

As you read a source, take note of citations of interest. Copy and paste the title of the source into the library’s catalog to see if we have access to it. If not, you can request the source through Interlibrary Loan for free. When you are in the catalog, look for a small red arrow pointing down (see in image below). Clicking this will show you sources that were cited in the original source. (Note that this is not available for all sources in the catalog.) Also, in other databases, look for a “Cited References” link. 

Going Forward in Time

Citation mining can take you forward in time from the source that you started with. By identifying the sources who have cited the original source, you can see how relevant this original source is in more recent research. 

Image from UW-Whitewater Libraries.

How to Mine Forwards in Time 

Search for the title of your source in Google Scholar and click on the “Cited By” link below the source’s excerpt. Similar to mining backwards, you can also search for the title in the library’s catalog and look for a red arrow pointing up. Clicking it will show you sources that have cited this original source. Also, in other databases, look for a “Cited By” link. 

Importance of...

When conducting your literature review, citation mining can be a particularly useful means for evaluating a study's "impact" in a particular discipline based upon the number of times an author or article has been cited subsequently by others. 

Citation mining can also be an effective means of determining the interdisciplinary value of a particular study because you can identify how many times subsequent citations to an article appeared in disciplines outside of where the cited article was published. 

When tracking citations, keep in mind the following points: 

  1. Authors do not always use the same name throughout their careers so be sure you work from a complete and accurate list of an author's publications. 

  1. Citation services are primarily based on selected journal literature. If the author is cited primarily in books, non-English language journals, or journals not covered in the database, the usefulness of your citation analysis is limited. In addition, citation services rarely cover articles published in scholarly open-access journals [journals published freely on the web]. Be sure to search in multiple locations for an author’s work. 

Manage Your Citations


  • Organize and store your citations 

  • Share your citations with other researchers 

  • Create quick bibliographies 

  • Access your citations online from anywhere 

Resource for Tracking Citations

Databases/Search Engines 

  • Google Scholar: Search results that have been cited by others will have a link that says, "Cited by [number]." Results can be inconsistent. 

  • Library Catalog: On the search results page, to the right of a resource title, you will see two red arrows pointing in multiple directions. The one of the left will do a new search for sources citing this one, while the one on the right will do a new search for sources cited in this resource. 

  • Biological Abstracts (Web of Science): On the right-hand side of the results page next to each article listed, you will see a “# citation” link that will lead you to sources who have cited this article. You will also see a “# references” link that will take you to the articles that were cited in this source.