Research Spotlight: Citation databases

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Citation databases are powerful research tools that share many features with more traditional journal databases, such as the ability to search the literature using search boxes, saving searches and creating search alerts. However, citation databases have several unique functions that set them apart from journal databases. To begin with, citation databases do not contain the full text of any articles that are indexed in them. They are designed to increase the discoverability of articles and make it easier to explore the literature in a topic area. They also provide you with lots of information on an article, author or journal. This information is referred to as bibliometrics, or just metrics.

You can use citation databases to:

  • Distinguish between authors with the same name, or an author’s name that has been presented in different ways
  • Analyse search results to show the number of documents broken down by various criteria, including year, author, source, affiliation, or subject categories
  • Search within results by adding additional terms to the initial search
  • Identify highly cited works related to a particular topic
  • Find related works that share references or authors
  • Create search alerts to keep up to date with developments in your discipline
  • Set up citation alerts to notify you when a document or author is cited elsewhere
  • Set up alerts to notify you about new documents by an author
  • Generate a profile that presents an analysis and citation summary of works published by an institution or author(s), including h-index
  • Compare the performance of journals in a particular subject area.

The key function in the list above is the ability to analyse and sort results according to citation count. This allows you to do two very important things. Firstly, it allows you to quickly identify the most highly cited articles on a topic. These are often the most important articles to use in your research. Secondly, the database allows you to see all of the articles that have cited that work since it was published. This is very important as it allows you to explore the literature on a topic forward through time. These databases also list the references used in an article, which gives you a trail backwards through time.

There are two main citation databases that are used at Charles Sturt University, Scopus and Web of Science. Scopus contains close to 23,000 journals, 150,000 books, 8,000,000 conference papers, as well as patents and trade publications. Scopus has better subject coverage than the other citation databases that are available. Web of Science contains over 20,000 journals, 94,000 books, and 10,000,000 conference papers. The differences between Scopus and Web of Science are subtle but one thing to note is that the humanities and the social sciences seem to be better represented in Scopus, whereas Web of Science favours the hard sciences.

If you have any further questions about citation databases, or any other library topic, and would like to talk to a librarian please feel free to contact the Senior Client Services Librarian for your faculty:

Good luck with your searching!

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