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Introduction to library research in the arts: Looking up citations

An introduction to research concepts and techniques for University of Redlands students in fine, literary and performing arts, developed as an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Learning outcomes

  • Find older sources cited by your source
  • Find newer sources that cite your source

Finding sources through citations

Looking up citations is a useful strategy for finding information on a topic. Once you've found one relevant source, look for older research that the authors cited, and look for newer research that cites the given article.

Image showing that your source cites older research and is cited by newer research.

As you find sources on your topic, look for patterns in what books, articles and other sources are repeatedly getting cited. These may be foundational sources crucial to understanding how scholars think about your topic.

"Diagram of the citation chain" by Bonnie Swoger.

Finding older sources cited by your source

Check footnotes and the list of cited sources at the end of an article, book or chapter. Try looking up the citations using the "Look Up a Citation" screen in the library catalog.

Example of a citation to Johann Joachim Quantz' "On Playing the Flute"

Some publisher websites highlight citations prominently as hyperlinks. When you find a source, you can easily link to the previous work cited in this source.

Screenshot of a list of citations in an article from the Wiley Online Library.

Finding newer sources that cite your source

Look up a source in Google Scholar and use the "Cited by" feature to see other sources that have cited it. Only those sources indexed by Google Scholar are included in the count of citations.

Screenshot showing a Google Scholar result cited by 688 other items.

On the library's website Primo, you can sometimes view "cited by" and/or "cited in" article connections. Click the red arrows to view them.

Large research libraries subscribe to the ISI Web of Knowledge databases which compile comprehensive records on which sources have been cited by other sources.

Key point

  • Looking up citations - both older sources cited by your source and newer sources that cite your source - is an effective way to find information on your topic.