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Web of Science: Using a Citation Database: 1. Citation Databases

Citation Databases

What is a Citation Database?

Citation databases compile the citations in the reference lists (bibliographies) of scholarly publications. Citation database records also include bibliographic content that identify a publication: article title, journal name, author, abstract, etc.

Why use a citation database?

Citation databases enable you to find newer papers that reference a paper or author you already know about. You might want to do this in order to:

  • find more papers on a topic
  • trace how an idea has been confirmed, applied, extended or corrected in later publications
  • see which other researchers are citing your work or the work of your labmates
  • find citation numbers and metrics to report on job or grant applications, evaluations, etc.

Three major databases allow interdisciplinary citation searching: Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, and Google Scholar.

Some other databases, such as SciFinder Scholar (chemistry), PsycInfo and PubMed, allow citation searching of smaller sets of journals and/or journals focused on specific disciplines.

This tutorial focuses on the Web of Science database because of its coverage and because it provides the Journal Impact Factor.

  • WoS provides complete citation data back to 1900, making it the most accurate for identifying core or classic articles published before 1996.
  • The Journal Impact Factor has been used as a benchmark in the biomedical sciences for several decades. Although research benchmarks are evolving, It is likely that most research scientists will be asked at some point to report the Journal Impact Factor of the journals in which they publish.

Review the other pages in this module if you would like to compare the features of Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar.

The concepts taught about citation searching and analysis in this tutorial are applicable to all citation databases. However, since the databases vary in what they cover, search features and citation analysis tools, the best database to choose depends on your personal preferences and your needs.