Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

Searching Backward

Every article, chapter, or book will review relevant research and give you the references for each of those studies in their reference section. This is an invaluable source of relevant material. Of course, not every paper referenced in articles that you identified as relevant will be relevant to your topic, but some will be. 

Recently published articles and review articles are especially useful with this strategy, because they will likely list more relevant research studies. Inspecting the reference list from appropriate articles will help identify other investigators doing work on your topic. 

Searching the author field for the names of these investigators is often a useful supplementary strategy. These strategies are not a substitute for the topic search described above, but can be valuable in identifying additional relevant papers.

Our Example: Explicit Memory in Anxiety Disorders

In our example, we started with a backward search in that we used the Becker et al. reference list to identify (1) several relevant articles, (2) a list of major researchers in the area, and (3) some of the general background on the problem and the kinds of keywords to expect. This was a perfectly reasonable starting point, because this was a relatively recent paper in a top journal. Therefore, it likely represented cutting-edge research.

Of course, this would not be the only time in a search of this sort that we would use the searching backwards strategy. Every paper that we read will have a reference list and will discuss previous research. The odds are very good that starting with some of the recently published papers that we found in the search described in the previous section will identify a number of other relevant articles. It is likely that many of these articles would not have been identified by our search, because their primary purpose, and thus their keywords in the database, would not have flagged the paper as relevant. However, a review of the papers we find will likely identify many such papers. In other words, the searching backwards strategy is something that should be employed throughout the process of background reading.


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