Higher Education Research: Keeping up to date

Cited Reference Searching

Many scholars use the technique of footnote chasing to follow up the references used in the bibliography of the article or book they are reading. A number of library databases and Google Scholar now allow for cited reference searching, a way of looking forward and finding out who has cited an article since it was first written. Cited reference searching is useful when you have a specific article and want to find out: 

  • what impact the article has had 
  • whether the findings in the article have since been confirmed or challenged
  • whether the original research has now been built on, improved on or has resulted in new findings.

Below you'll find advice on how to perform a cited reference search in Web of Science or SCOPUS and some information on the amount of coverage you can expect to find.

SCOPUS - Cited Reference Searching

Step 1: Search for the article you are interested in

Step 2: Click on the article title to see the full record.

Step 3: Follow up recent references to the article by using the links in the cited references box on the right of the screen


Web of Science - Cited Reference Searching

Watch the video below to find out how to perform a cited reference search in Web of Science (Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index.

Note that the number of cited references can differ between sources. The number of citations to a published work will depend upon the journals indexed in the database you are using. Citation counts in Google Scholar will always be higher than in the library databases. However, Web of Science and Scopus do include functionality for very precise cited reference searching allowing you to identify variants on author name and articles which may have included incorrect bibliographic information. For a thorough analysis of the impact of an author or a publication it is necessary to look in multiple databases to find all possible cited references.


One of the best ways to keep up to date as a researcher is by using alerts. Alerts can provide you with the following

  • Table of Contents Alert - useful when you have one or more key journals and you want to be informed when the most recent issue is published
  • Author Alert - if you are following the work of an individual author or a key researcher in your field this type of alert will notify you when new works are published
  • Citation Alert - use this option if you want to find out when an article you have found useful is cited in a new publication
  • Saved search alert - this type of alert will inform you when the database identifies new articles related to a search you have performed before. For this option it is important to establish which keywords and search techniques have proved most successful in these prior to setting up your saved search so you only receive details of the most useful results.

Many of our library databases offer the option of setting up one or more of the above alerts. The links below provide information on how to set up an alert in some of our larger interdisciplinary databases. If you are using a subject specific database or an individual journal advice on alerts is usually found in the help section.

How do I receive my alert?

Different options are available depending on the database or website you are using but alerts are usually delivered in one of two ways:

  1. E-mail alert
  2. RSS feed

E-mail alerts

E-mail alert options differ between databases but most will offer your the option of setting your own preferences as regards how frequently you receive the notification. Some will also allow you to specify how you want to see the information displayed in the e-mail, for example links to the article or where available if you want the full-text of the pdf attached to the e-mail message you receive.

RSS Feeds

RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is a way to receive information from websites and online databases which have frequently updated content. If a RSS feed is available then you will see the orange RSS symbol.

RSS Icon

Clicking on the symbol will provide you with the feed URL which you can add to a feed reader. Most web browsers contain RSS features alternatively you can download a range of RSS readers from the web.

If you want to find out more about RSS feeds then you may find the article on News Feeds from the BBC a useful starting point. Contact us if you want some advice on how to use RSS feeds.