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Boost your research skills for your Built Environment dissertation

You will find out about:

  • Citation searching.
  • The benefits of using citation searching.
  • What a metric is.
  • The responsible use of metrics.

1. Time travel with citation searching

Citation searching allows you to follow the research trail forward and backwards in time! 

Even if you find just a few research papers at the beginning, there are very easy ways of using those first papers to find many more! Imagine you have identified a incredible relevant journal article or a set of influential papers that have moved on the understanding within the field and you wish to explore how the field has developed since that paper/s was published by looking at the more recent articles that reference it.

You can follow the research trail backwards:

  • Most academic research comes with a reference list at the end: you can use the reference list to find related articles on the same topic as your original paper.
  • This is perfectly acceptable to do and one of the reasons why referencing exists. However, anything you find this way can only be older than your original paper, since the authors would have had to read it as before they started writing. 
  • Look at the references at the end of the paper to understand which papers and which researchers the author had read and cited.

You can follow the research trail forwards:

  • Explore who has cited the article since it was published. 
  • Some citation searching databases keep a record of who is referencing whom: this means that when you look up an article in that database, there will be a link to show you other articles which referenced that original article.
  • Because the original article had to be published before anyone else could reference it, this means that any articles that reference it must be more recent.

In doing this, you can use the articles you've already found to locate both older and newer material with very little effort. 

This is a picture of a light bulb.                Activity 1: Put this into practice with an article

  1. Go to either Web of Science or Scopus.
  2. Use the title of an article you found during your scoping searches.
  3. Search for the article and then look into the past by looking at the reference list. Look into the future by looking who has cited your original paper.

This is a picture of a light bulb.                Activity 2: Put this into practice with search terms.

  1. Go to either Web of Science or Scopus.
  2. Put broad search terms into the search e.g. "self healing concrete".
  3. Run the search.
  4. You will now see a list of all articles that match those search terms.
  5. Sort the results by citation.
  6. You will now see the papers ranked into most cited papers in relation to self healing concrete.

Important thing to note!

If the article of interest is not indexed in Web of Science or Scopus, you will not be able to find it in the database and there will be no citation data for the article in those resources.

As an alternative, you could look up the article in Google Scholar to see if there is any citation data in the listing of the article in Google Scholar.

You can find all citation tools below

2. Which databases offer citation searching?

Many databases have specialist features which enable you to:

  • View the article's references as part of the database record.
  • Find more recent articles which have referenced the article by using the “Times Cited” or “Cited by” link in the record.

Citation searching is available in a number of specialist resources. When choosing which resource to use for citation searching you should consider the following points:

  • Does the resource cover my subject area?
  • What is the range and coverage of the citation data?
  • Do I need to citation search across multiple resources?

We recommend that you find cited by data using Web of Science or Scopus in addition to other sources you have used for subject searches.

3. With great power comes great responsibility - use metrics responsibly!

What is a metric?

A metric is a value placed on something. The term something is quite broad but it needs to be! In academic research, a metric could be:

  • how many times an article has been cited.
  • the impact factor that a journal has.
  • the h-index attached to an individual author.

A metric can be used to evaluate and assess but it should always be done in conjunction with other information as a number is just a number! 

You can find out more about the responsible use of metrics in the article and guide below.

Take a break

Congratulations you have completed four sections! 

Time to take a break with nature! Take a look at the activities section of the Royal Horticultural Society and think trying one of the activities in the Grow things or Do things section.