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PHYB56 Introduction to Quantum Physics

This guide will help you conduct the research needed for your assignments.

The power of citations

In scholarly publications, citations are a list of sources usually located at the end of an article or book chapter.  Depending upon the conventions of the different style manuals, these lists may be called references, works cited, bibliographies, or endnotes.  To some extent, these words are synonymous, but they all contain citations.

Identifying important papers

An "important" paper is one that has changed an area of research in some way.  If you are trying to determine if a paper is important consider the following:

  • How many times has it been cited? Remember to keep in mind the factors affecting citations listed below!  For example: a paper published in 2015 that has been cited 75 times is almost certainly more "important" that a paper published in 2005 cited 75 times.
  • In those citations what is said about this paper?  Some articles gain a large number of citations because many people are using them as a bad example!  Generally when an instructor asks you to find important papers they mean important in a good way.

Factors affecting citation count:

  • Time since publication (it can take time for citations to accumulate so newer papers will usually not have as many citations as older papers)
  • Importance of the work (both good and bad)
  • Importance/prominence of the journal the article is published in
  • Language of publication : something published in (say) Russian or Chienese will get fewer citations than one in English because fewer people can read Russian or Chinese
  • What type of document is it?  Literature reviews (also known as: review articles, reviews, research summary, etc.) generally receive more citations than original research papers (also known as: journal articles, papers, research articles, etc.)

Using review articles to find primary sources

Review articles synthesize known research on a specific topic. They typically summarize past research, identify important people in the field, outline recent advances, and point out gaps in a body of knowledge. 

Review articles are well-cited, and can provide a great source of citations as a starting point for more extensive research.

Backward chaining

You can use articles or books you have already found as a starting point to get additional relevant materials on your topic. Look for a list of citations listed at the end of the publication. The list may be called 'References', 'Bibliography', or 'Works Cited', depending on the referencing style that was used in the publication.  Locate these items by searching for books or articles using LibrarySearch or if viewing the content online try selecting links for citations located directly in the database record or article.

Forward chaining

Forward chaining allows you to move forward in time to find articles that cite a previously published work, usually using citation indexes.  Keep in mind that there is a period of delay between when an article is published and when it is cited by other researchers and begins to appear in citation indexes.  A very recent article may have few forward citations.

Web of Science - using citations

How to find highly cited papers:

  • Select the 'Highly Cited Papers' filter in the "Refine Results" column on the left side of your screen.
  • Select "Citations: highest first" from the drop down results sort order menu near the top of your screen.

results sort order menu screenshot

Once you have identified an important or influential source on your topic, cited reference searching can help you find articles that have cited it. You can then see articles that have cited those articles.