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Citation Chaining

What is citation chaining?

If you're conducting a literature review or struggling to locate relevant sources for a research project, you may want to use a research strategy called citation chaining to help find sources related to your topic. Citation chaining is a method by which you trace an idea or topic both forward and backward in time either by sources that have cited a particular work or through the references that a particular work has cited. This idea of linking one source to another, which then links to another, creates a chain of related sources or citations.

Backward chaining

Backward chaining involves looking at a published work's references to find other material that covers similar topics.

Once you find an article or book relevant to your research topic, the references or works cited section will give you the citation information the author(s) used to develop their own ideas. This is a great way to find other sources that relate to your topic.

Resources cited in your article...

  • will be older than the article
  • will help you identify past resources on the same topic (such as theories or classic articles)

Forward chaining

Forward chaining involves researching the sources that have cited a particular work to find more recent material covering similar topics.

A couple of databases that are really useful for forward chaining are Scopus and Web of Science.  Both databases will show a list of references for a particular work if that item has been cited by other works in those particular databases.

Resources that cite your article...

  • will be newer than the article you've already found
  • will help you identify more recent, relevant research

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