Google Scholar as Citation Index

Nine days ago I posted that I had received Chris Hart’s Doing a Literature Review and had skimmed through the book.  This week I decided to read through a little more carefully and look at Hart’s theory of how to do a literature review.

Points of interest:

  1. Hart talks about building a map of the literature.  He suggests starting with books in phase one, then moving to journal articles in phase two, and finally theses and conference papers in phase three.

This makes sense because books tend to be more general and are often based on a synthesis of many journal articles.  This would make them a good starting point.  I did start with books (even though I had not read this yet.)  Key works need to be identified.  Hart talks about using citation indexes to do this.

Google Scholar is a great tool for this.  For example, if I am trying to determine the relative value of a piece, looking it up in Google Scholar immediately tells me the number of times this work has been cited in the literature.  Then, I can click on the link “cited by” and pull up a page with all the works that cite it.  This is a fabulous feature for looking at the influence of a piece of work on works after it.  Which authors and articles embody the core ideas of the literature?  Google Scholar can help you find out.

I had not thought about this before.  I always read the citations at the end of articles, and make some mental notes about “who’s who”, but have never done this formally.  Definitely a process and tool to keep in mind.


  1. It’s amazing how fast your bibliography grows when you start tracking citations and how the internet makes building that map so much easier than it used to be. Another source that you might want to take a look at is the ISI Web of Science database at swem. It doesn’t have the direct (somewhat) access to the full text that Google does, but at first glance it seems to be a little more comprehensive. It also has the ability to create forward and backward citation maps that is very cool. (At least, I it’s cool.

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