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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

Cited Reference Searching

Guide to identifying articles that have cited a reference of interest.

What About Google Scholar for Cited Reference Searching? Pros and Cons

Question: Has anyone has cited this recent study on the effects of nighttime sleep duration on obesity gene expression? It published just 7 months ago.

               Watson NF, Harden KP, Buchwald D, Vitiello MV, Pack AI, Weigle DS, Goldberg J.
               University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center, Seattle, WA 98104-2499, USA.
               Sleep duration and body mass index in twins: a gene-environment interaction.
               Sleep. 2012 May 1;35(5):597-603.

 

Results: What did I find in Google Scholar that I didn't find in the other databases?

Pros: Access to Preprints of Scholarly Articles
 
Google Scholar returned a preprint of a scholarly article in the journal Disability & Rehabilitation relating to Body Mass Index in amputees.  This was a relevant article citing my article.  Because it was a preprint (published online before the issue was formally published), it had not yet been indexed by Web of Science, PubMedCentral, Biosis Citation Index, or CINAHL.  When the article is formally published, it will be indexed by those databases.  [It will be included in PubMedCentral because the research depended on NIH funding.]

 

Cons: Inaccurate Results
 
Google Scholar also returned a 2008 report on obesity titled "F is for Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing " from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  This could be interesting, but it does not in fact cite my article.  The obesity report was written before my article was even published.
 

Resource

Number of citing publications

Type of citing publications

Accurate?

Complete?

Timeliness Rank

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web of Science

1

Editorial that published in same issue as original article

Yes

No

2

Scopus

1

Editorial that published in same issue as original article

Yes

No

2

PubMedCentral

1

Editorial that published in same issue as original article

Yes

No

2

CINAHL

0

 

N/A

No

3

Google Scholar

2

(1) Scholarly article preprint; (2) Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on obesity

No

No

1

 
 [Searches conducted December 12, 2012]

Bottom Line

1. Google Scholar is great for finding citing references that may not be available in other standard databases.

2. Google Scholar should not be relied upon for determining the author impact factor or research impact factor for scholarly purposes.

Google Is Not a Database

Unlike the other sources for cited reference searching,

  • Google Scholar is an internet search engine, not an organized database. 
  • The scope of Google Scholar is not limited to scholarly publications. 
  • The journal titles and time frame of coverage are not specified in Google Scholar.
  • Google Scholar has not been structured and indexed by humans.
  • Google Scholar retrieves publications that are not included in standard bibliographic databases. 
  • Google Scholar may retrieve the same publication in multiple locations: on research lab websites, in patents, in PowerPoint presentations, etc.

No citation metric tool is an exact measure of research impact.  Still, it's important to remember that the number of citing publications listed by Google Scholar is likely to be an inflated number.  It's not a number that should be relied upon by faculty members seeking promotions.

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