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

Literature Citation Indexes

Abstract and keyword services are helpful in finding material by topic or author. However, there are times when you want to find literature through another means--the citations to previous work that each publication makes. Certain lines of research are so indebted to one or two early publications on the topic that one can find virtually every article on the topic by identifying those articles that cite these early publications. 

There are several important indexes that permit citation searches. The Science Citation Index and the Social Science Citation Index are two examples of this kind of reference. These indexes publish citation information in physical sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and in the social sciences (e.g., sociology, psychology, economics), respectively. One can find references to work in psychology in both indexes.

Using a citation index can also allow researchers to follow developments in a particular area of research from early research to the most up-to-date and sophisticated research. You start with a study of interest and see who cites that study in later research. Using those studies, you can often identify one or more papers that are consistently cited by later researchers on the topic, thus allowing you to trace the history of research on a topic. The key is that your initial study is often not the best one for such a citation search, but is likely to lead to the identification of one or more classic studies that will allow the effective tracing of research on a given topic.

Finally, a citation index is a good indicator of the impact that a paper has had on the field. Papers that are cited frequently by other researchers have influenced their thinking. One has to be a bit careful about this approach, however. A particularly bad paper may be cited repeatedly, because it illustrates what NOT to do. Therefore, it is important to integrate the numbers from the citation indices with what later researchers say about the paper. Also, certain types of papers may be cited repeatedly, even though they have had little theoretical impact on the field. For example, a paper that details the development of a useful psychological test will often be cited every time that test is used in later research.


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