Citation mining (aka “snowballing” and “citation pearl growing”) is one way of conducting a systematic literature search. Traditionally, researchers had to refer to the list of cited references to identify earlier sources of relevance; then, they needed to follow up with separate searches to locate each source of interest to them. As a result, the process of building a comprehensive literature review was a rather complex and time-consuming task undertaken only by seasoned researchers who had the skills and perseverance to engage in it.

New database tools now make citation mining easy and efficient. In addition, they often supplement the option of tracing cited references with the option to identify more recent sources that cite the original article/book itself. As a result, it is possible to quickly identify older and newer scholarship on a given subject.

Experienced and new researchers alike can now take advantage of these tools. Indeed, I have seen both faculty and first-year students elated by what these tools help them accomplish. For example, students, who are always on the hunt for more sources, can effectively trace additional relevant sources using these tools. Faculty appreciate these tools for the same reason. But as teachers, the faculty I've worked with have used these tools to show students that research is a conversation among experts who build on past knowledge even as their own work expands what we already know.

Below are examples of citation mining tools from some of the most commonly used library databases: OneSearch, GoogleScholar, and the EBSCO platform.

-- Marta Bladek

Screenshot of citation mining tools in Google Scholar

Screenshot of citation mining tools in the EBSCO platform

Screenshot of citation mining tools in OneSearch.