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MSOD Master of Science in Organization Development: Tracking an Article in Time

This guide outlines the library resources available to students in the MSOD program.

The Article Citation Time Machine | Examining an Article Through Time and Space

What is citation tracking?

Citation tracking refers to a method of measuring the impact of research studies and/or for identifying leading scholars in a particular discipline based upon a systematic analysis of who has cited a particular study, how often a specific research study has been cited by others, and by exploring what disciplines are represented by those subsequent citations. (source: Mavodza, J. Citation Tracking in Academic Libraries: An Overview. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, May 2016).

How can citation tracking be helpful?

Citation tracking benefits your review and evaluation of relevant literature related on your topic. Tracking citations:

  1. Allows you to use a highly cited "landmark" or influential article to quickly locate more recent, related articles that cite the original work.
  2. Helps identify important scholars who have cited these influential studies in their own work.
  3. Allows you to evaluate the "impact" of a particular study within the discipline based upon the number of times it has been cited by others.
  4. Turns up studies that critique or challenge groundbreaking research or which provide controversial results.
  5. Helps assess the interdisciplinary value of a particular study by using the number of subsequent citations from publications in other disciplines.

What issues come up when searching by author's name?

  • Authors may not always keep the same name throughout their careers. For example, the same author could publish sometimes as Jane Anne Smith and at other points as Jane A. Smith or could change their last name.  Be sure to work through a complete and accurate list of an author's publications. A thorough literature review of an author should reveal any variations in their name.
  • Citation databases like Scopus do not provide the first name of the author, just their first and middle initial. This means J Smith could be John, Jeff, Jane, Julie, Jason, etc. Pro Search Tip: Use an asterick* to truncate the fist name initial to see a more complete list of authors. Next, find a record on a topic you know the author writes about and click on that author to exclude articles written by other J Smith's. 

How can I critically examine the citations I see in Scopus, Google Scholar, and other databases?

  • Value and impact are not synonymous. A highly cited item indicates impact but just because a source has been cited numerous times doesn't mean it is a good one. Evaluate why the article is being highly cited - other authors may have referenced the source because it is an example of a poorly designed study or because it used faulty methodologies or ended with questionable conclusions. Tip: examine a sample of recent studies that reference this work and look at how the source is being described.
  • Older studies will likely be cited more times than more recently published studies. Tip: For an older study, look to see whether it is still being cited.
    • If there are few or no recent citations to this study from the last few years, that may indicate that the impact of this work has waned and new research has emerged. 
    • If the study continues to be cited frequently in the most recently published literature on the topic, it may be considered a foundational study.
  • Span across the disciplines to evaluate impact. When a citation has been referenced in a variety of different fields of research and in a variety of different investigative contexts or areas of applied practice, this is a good indicator of a study's overall impact.
  • Observe whether a particular citation is referenced alone or always grouped with other sources. A study that is consistently cited with other sources but rarely referenced as a stand-alone study may indicate that the research is not unique or distinctive in a way that stands out from the overall domain of prior research about the topic. While this is not necessarily bad (since many scholars may have investigated a specific research problem), it can be helpful in interpreting the relevance of a particular source in relation to your own research.
  • Compare and contrast results on an author using Scopus against those in Google Scholar. Scopus is more selective than Google Scholar and may leave out citations to materials in some book chapters, foreign publications, or open access journals. 

Citation Tracking Applied

When examining an article, do these two things to trace the path of that article through history 

  1. Look back in time by looking at the references cited in a particular article. All the cited articles listed preceded this article.
  2. Move ahead in time from the articles that reference this particular article. All articles that cite this article got published afterwards.

Pepperdine's subscription to the Scopus database provides the easiest method to trace citations in both directions - backwards and forwards.

  • Scopus doesn't provide full-text access to articles. Its strength is to help users track down and analyze the output (writing) of researchers.
  • Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books and conference proceedings.
  • Access Scopus

Some additional library databases are now making it easier to trace citations backwards and forwards.

  • Searching for articles in full-text using other library databases and want to see the history both backwards and forwards for a particular article?
  • EBSCOhost databases like Business Source Premier and PsycINFO now provide both 'Cited References' (past articles) and 'Times Cited in this Database' (more recent articles) for many articles.
  • Clicking on the 'Cited References' and 'Times Cited' links will bring up lists, some of which may have links to abstracts or full text. Not all articles will have both (or either) option. You may need to look some articles up by journal title.
  • You can sometimes limit the search to References Available, using the checkboxes available under the search boxes or on the left on the results page.

Google Scholar allows you to see what articles cited the article you are searching - forwards only.

  • Google Scholar has 'Cited By' links which will give you links to articles that cite the article you are looking for (more recent articles).
  • You can use a source you already have (article, essay, book) to expand your searches by seeing how frequently and by whom has this source been cited. Look up your article in Google Scholar and click on "Cited By" to see these more recent articles.
  • Google Scholar will provide a higher volume than Scopus in terms of what articles cited the article you are looking up -- and this comes with some caveats.

Take advantage of your Pepperdine level access to articles when searching in  Google Scholar. Get Google Scholar to recognize your Pepperdine credentials from wherever you are. 

Connecting your Google Scholar to Pepperdine Libraries access is a good way to make sure you get access to articles that Pepperdine Libraries subscribes to. Here's how (want some visuals instead of the written instructions? Check out our related Google Scholar FAQ for screenshots):

  1. Go to Google Scholar and sign in to your Google account
  2. Look for the menu options on the left side (this icon is three short horizontal lines)
  3. Go into the settings (this icon is a gear) and within settings, select "Library links"
  4. Type in Pepperdine and select: Pepperdine University - Try Pepperdine Library
  5. Deselect the box for WorldCat if shown
  6. Save your preferences
  7. Search your topic and look for the "Try Pepperdine Library" links to the right of the articles. This link should take you to Pepperdine's access to that item.