In 2002, Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury, two electrical engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined how often errors in citation lists are passed to subsequent papers.  Simkin and Roychowdhury tracked 4300 citations of a seminal 1973 paper on condensed-matter physics (J. M. Kosterlitz and D. J. Thouless J. Phys. C 6, 1181–1203; 1973). Interestingly, misprints in the citations frequently were identical and the most common error appeared 78 times. Read more about how the paper trail revealed that references go unread by citing authors…

Why is it considered good practice to cite correctly? An inaccurate or incomplete reference “will stand in print as an annoyance to future investigators and a monument to the writer’s carelessness” (Bruner, 1942, p. 68). (p. 216) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th ed.

Providing correct citations may also:

  • Help others find additional information on or related to the topic in the paper;
  • Help authors avoid plagiarizing another author’s work;
  • Strengthen the authority of an article;
  • Provide a consistent way to share information;
  • Illustrate how an article’s premise is supported by previous scholarship;

It is also possible to measure how often an article has been cited. Why measure this? It is one way to show how much of an impact an article makes in its field. Various tools help us do this, including Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar.

When we run a search in Google Scholar, underneath the article information we can see a Cited by link. In the example in the image below I searched for articles about men with breast cancer and limited it to the subject of Medicine, Pharmacology, and Veterinary Science.


After running the search, click on the Cited by link. This will take you to another page of search results that cite this article. Google Scholar citation links may be to online articles on publishers sites, preprint databases, open access journals, or other websites. Now the exciting thing you can do in Google Scholar is search within the cited articles by keyword. Let’s say you wanted to see how many of the articles mention Baltimore or a specific drug? You can do that with this kind of search:

Really easy and a great time saver for searching within your search results.

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