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Searching Scientific Literature


As part of the research process citation is made within current publications to earlier research. Citations may serve the following purposes:

  • Acknowledge related work of other scientists.
  • Identify additional sources of information.
  • Reference methods used in the research.
  • Acknowledge conflicts with other research results.
  • Provide support for views expressed in a paper.

Citations are commonly included within the text of the paper and listed in a concluding "Bibliography" or "Literature Cited" section. The average research paper contains eleven citations.

Literature Cited

Starting with at least one initial research paper a bibliography of both older and newer research related to your topic can be created. The initial research paper(s) may come from several possible sources:

  • Subject searching of literature databases and library catalogs.
  • Your personal knowledge of the literature on a specific topic.
  • Reference books such as subject encyclopedias, treatises, and reviews.
  • Another person who has specific knowledge on the topic.

Finding Older References

To work BACKWARD in time use the "Bibliography" or "Literature Cited" section of publications you already in hand. Just look up appropriate references cited in these publications and then continue to follow up additional references that you find in older papers. Depending upon the extent of your information needs this process can be repeated until the point is reached when you continue finding the same older references.

Older References

Finding Newer References

A number of databases allow you to work FORWARD in time from an older reference. The results of your search in these databases will be a bibliography of more recent papers that have cited your original older research paper. See Citation Searching library guide for more information.


Google Scholar and Scopus are the most comprehensive citation databases to which WSU Libraries has access.  Scopus also provides impact factors and visualization for working with citation data.

Google Scholar


Other scientific literature databases available at WSU also provide citations to more recent articles. You may also be able to set up a "search alert" for new articles that have cited an article found in a database. 

Citing Article Sources

The following databases allow you to create accounts and set up search alerts for tracking citations or subjects -

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