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ELISE | Informing your studies tutorial: Citation chaining

The basics

Tools

Web of Science offers a Citation Network which links researchers to a Citation Map (a graphical representation that shows the citation relationships between a starting article and other articles), Cited References and Related Records for a particular article.

SciVal offers a trend mapping tool which can link researchers to key authors and institutions in their field.

Citation chaining in your discipline

Tip  In the sciences, citation chaining allows researchers to establish and track key findings.

Tip  In the humanities, tracking narrative over time is facilitated.

Tip  In Law, subject specific databases facilitate citation chaining by linking cases, legislation, precedent and areas of law.

Citation generations

First generation sources cite or are cited by the starting source.

Second generation sources are those that cite or are cited by first generation sources.

And so on . . . 

Citation chaining network

Why citation chaining?

Using citation chaining you can:

  • build an overview of an unfamiliar field - useful for a literature review
  • trace the origins of an idea
  • trace the impact and development of an idea
  • identify key articles, authors, journals and research centres in your field

What does it involve?

When writing an article a researcher will read and cite relevant information sources they have identified, such as journal articles, monographs, reports, and conference papers. These sources will form the list of references at the end of the article. Once published, other researchers will similarly read and cite this article. This creates a citation network. For an introduction to citation chaining, go to the Selecting information page, under the Locating tab.

In addition to helping you find more useful resources for an assessment task, citation chaining is a useful method of identifying resources for a literature review or systematic review. It is also a method of tracking the development of an idea or theory over time, and identifying trends, by looking backwards and forwards at references and citing articles.

The number of times a source is cited can indicate the impact that source has had in its field. This can assist you when determining the importance of that source for your research.

Chaining by author, collaborator, research centre, DOI, and subject fields will allow researchers to link to related sources.