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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

Biology 697: Home

Citation Searching & Surfing

Citation searching can be a very valuable tool for finding additional research about or closely related to your research topic.  Here are the main three types and how they help you:

  1. Cited references
    The bibliography or reference list of an article. Helps you determine where a) the original article got its information and b) what was known at the time. Useful for finding related and potentially useful articles but also for tracking down original research that's secondarily cited.
  2. Citing references
    Articles that cite this article.  Helps you find newer research related to your topic and can help track changes in research over time.
  3. Related references
    Who else is citing the same resources in a bibliography or reference list?  Helps you find related research.  The higher the percentage of citations shared, the more likely the research is related.

Best bets for citation searching:

All scientific topics:

Biological-related topics:


Chemistry and biochemical topics

The Catalog: Scholarly Books & Streaming Film


The catalog links you to access points that we have for scholarly journals. <unnecessary caps, probably> YOU CANNOT LOOK UP JOURNAL ARTICLES USING THE CATALOG </end unnecessary caps>.  The catalog does not function as a index to the contents of journals.  You need to use a database or search within the publication itself (I will show you how!).


Search Strategies

Research is messy. We want the path to look like this:

Example of straight line in research


But most of the time, research looks like this:

Reality of messy research.

It is not unusual to need to look for more information as you make your way through your initial idea or topic, planning and research methodology, or results. And as you do that, you may create searches that find the perfect article and searches that get you nothing that is useful or informative. What to do?  The key is to be flexible with your topic and to think more broadly about related concepts.  Here's an example:

You are studying the taxonomy for a specific plant species.  You've exhausted all of the literature that you can find using the species name but your professor says that you need to study more background information.  That might mean thinking more broadly about species concepts, species delimitation, hybridization, introgression, relictual species, etc. - all as they relate to botany (or even a types of plant: wildflowers, woody plants, succulents).