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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Research Skills for First-Year Seminars (FSEMs)

Citation Chaining

Citation Chaining is the process of starting with one good book or article and following citations to find other sources on the same topicYou can follow a chain of citations backward in time or forward in time

  • Backward Chaining - Use the citations that you find in scholarly books and articles to identify older sources on the same topic. Then, find the full text of those older sources, using Quest or the library databases.  
  • Forward Chaining - In the years after a scholarly book or article is published, other researchers may cite that book or article.  Therefore, the book or article you originally located will appear in the citations of newer publicationsSome databases have a function that lets you find newer publications that cite a given book or article. Google Scholar is an example of a free database that includes this function. Look for links that say "Cited By" or "Times Cited."

Please watch this short video from McMaster University to learn more about using citation chaining to find sources.

Why is Citation Chaining Important?

Citation Chaining:

  • gives you insight into the "scholarly conversation": how researchers are building on, talking about, and sometimes challenging one another's work.
  • allows you to track the development of key findings and arguments over time.
  • lets you identify key authors, publications, and journals in an area of study.
  • provides a measure of scholarly impact (how influential a work is in an area of study).

Google Scholar: Connecting with Simpson Library

Google Scholar can be helpful in the citation chaining process because it provides a "Cited By" link for many research articles.

Another helpful feature in Google Scholar is that you can connect the library's full text holdings directly to your search results in Google Scholar. Please watch this video on how to connect Google Scholar with the Simpson Library.