Citation searching uses one relevant publication to locate others, by exploring the list of references at the end of the publication in the bibliography (going back in time and reading what the authors read to inform the article), and by exploring other publications that cite your reference (going forward in time and reading subsequent publications that listed your reference in their bibliography).
This type of search is often done in addition to standard database searching, to increase the recall of all the relevant literature. However, this method should not be used in isolation when searching for evidence as large amounts of information could be missed.
The main advantage of citation searching is that you can follow a line of scholarly communication on a given topic over time, by going backward and forward from a seed reference.
You may also be able to gauge the impact of a publication by looking at the citation count, the logic being that articles that are frequently cited have had greater impact or influence in the scientific community (though of course there will be exceptions to this).
Citation searching can turn up publications that were not found via standard database searches because you are not constrained by the vocabulary of a search strategy or bibliographic record. You may also find articles from unexpected disciplines.
First you identify a key article, author or book of relevance to your research (ideally in publication for at least one or two years). The chosen article, book or author will be the target of your search. By using that resource's title or author's name you can conduct a citation search in databases such as Web of Science and Scopus, or in Google Scholar.
In this example we are looking at the articles that have cited Chang et al. (2016), Effect of climate change, CO2 trends, nitrogen addition, and land-cover and management intensity changes on the carbon balance of European grasslands, Global Change Biology in Web of Science.
To perform a search you will need to:
Enter the first author’s name in the Cited Author field e.g. Ciais, P
Enter a journal or book title in the Cited Work field e.g. the journal global change biology
Entering a year is optional. Omit the Cited Year(s) field initially, in order to retrieve a maximum amount of variations. If you get too many results, enter the year(s) to refine relevant records.e.g. 2016
Select the references that are relevant to your search.
Click finish search to go to the results page.
In this example we are looking at the articles that have cited Omer (2008), Green energies and the environment, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews in Scopus.
In this example we are looking at resources that have cited the book Romm (2017) climate change: what everyone needs to know in Google Scholar.