Where Was This Paper Cited?
This essay was originally published in the Current Contents print editions January 31, 1994, when Thomson Reuters was known as the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)
We live in a world that relies on citations. [Thomson Reuters uses the term "citation" to refer to references found at the end of or distributed throughout most research articles.] Many years ago, Saul Herner surveyed scientists and found that their major source of information was through references cited in recent papers.1 While conferences and personal contact are important to all scientists, they only supplement the key role of the primary literature in research. Although it is not a highly visible factor, the practice of referencing may be the one internationally universal feature of scientific communication.
The Cited Reference Search
While Thomson Reuters databases can provide rather detailed analyses of research trends and even map emerging areas of science, there is one simple message I try to leave with the audience wherever I travel. No matter where you have encountered a reference—whether in a recent article, book, or conversation—the Science Citation Index® (SCI®), the Social Sciences Citation Index® (SSCI®), or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index® (A&HCI®) can tell you where that paper has been cited and then some.
It all starts with a citation. Citation indexing is unique to Thomson Reuters, as is the multidisciplinary coverage that further expands the power of information retrieval in a cited reference search. Regardless of the year that the paper or book was published, the SCI permits you to learn where that publication was cited. Depending on whether you use the online, CD-ROM, magnetic tape, or printed version of the SCI, you can locate recent papers that have cited your work or locate that particular paper or work which you encountered somewhere...somehow.
For over 25 years, Thomson Reuters has made the timely cited reference search possible on a weekly basis via Research Alert. Through this weekly customized alerting service, I regularly find that one or more of my publications, as well as articles written by colleagues, are cited in journals that I do not regularly access. A search profile, consisting of a list of key references that symbolize my interests, is matched against the profiles of about 20,000 new articles that we index each week. The result is what I like to call systematic serendipity—unpredictable but relevant discoveries.
For instance, one of the entries that caught my eye recently was an article in the Fall 1993 issue of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine which cited a 1991 article from The Scientist. Since I don't regularly browse Perspectives, I would have been unaware of this article on the pitfalls of creativity.2 In an average week, I will learn of 15 to 20 relevant papers that I would not encounter in the normal course of my journal reading.
So, to reiterate, use the SCI® to learn the subsequent fate of any paper or book in which you have an interest. This is the most unique and valuable feature of citation indexing itself. A brief history of how this information retrieval system came to be is shown in the accompanying sidebar.
SCI Search Strategies
There are four different ways to search the printed SCI. Each focuses on a different strategy. A search might begin with the Citation Index, which is arranged alphabetically by the first author. All publications cited during the designated indexing period are listed under the first author's name, just as they appear in the journals.
On the other hand, all authors of articles recorded by Thomson Reuters during the period are indexed in the Source Index. This index lists the full title of each paper. Use the Source Index to find out what an author has published.
To research a topic by title word or subject, use the Permuterm® Subject Index (PSI). This is essentially a title word or natural language index. However, the CD-ROM version has augmented this capability through SCI's KeyWords Plus® based on recurring words or phrases appearing in a paper's list of cited references.7 The CD-ROM version also includes author key words.
The Corporate Index is arranged geographically. It identifies papers published at a specific institution. The printed listings are organized both alphabetically and geographically. All of these indexing approaches can be combined when using the online and CD-ROM versions to find, for example, the papers that are published on a given topic at a particular university or company.
Regardless of which search strategy is used or the goal of the search, the three unique advantages of SCI® are its use of citation indexing, its multidisciplinary coverage, and its timeliness. In the next essay, we will continue to look at the value of citation indexing.
While the first proposal for the SCI was made in 1955,3 it was in the 1960s that Thomson Reuters applied for and received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to create a Genetics Citation Index. As a result of this multidisciplinary project, we published the first SCI (covering the 1961 literature) in 1963. We then went on to launch a quarterly service that eventually proved successful. Since then we have indexed the literature back to 1945 and now the CD-ROM version of SCI is updated monthly and the online and magnetic tape versions are updated weekly.
In 1973, we made SSCI® available. It now covers the social sciences literature back to 1956. The index deals with topics such as anthropology, economics, sociology, educational research, and information sciences among other fields.4 A&HCI® was introduced in 1978. A&HCI provides access to disciplines as varied as archaeology, linguistics, philosophy, musicology, literature, and others in the arts and humanities.5
Advances in modes of access have also been made over the years. In 1974, the SCI became one of the first large-scale databases available online via DIALOG. Other Thomson Reuters databases followed. In 1988, SCI (and later SSCI and A&HCI) became available on CD-ROM. This new technology and increased data storage capabilities enabled us to implement a variety of access and browse features unique to our citation-based searching. Enhancing the power of citation searching through bibliographic coupling, you can navigate the literature by exploring papers that share one or more references. 6
Dr. Eugene Garfield
Founder and Chairman Emeritus, ISI
1. Herner, S. Information gathering habits of workers in pure and applied science. Ind. Eng. Chem. 46:228-36, 1954.
2. Farnsworth, W. Pitfalls of creativity. Perspect. Biol. Med. 37(1):104-11. Fall 1993.
3. Garfield, E. Citation indexes for sciences. Science 122:108-11, 1955.
4. ----------. The new Social Sciences Citation Index® (SSCI®) will add a new dimension to research on man and society. Current Contents® (31) May 1972. (Reprinted in: Essays of an information scientist. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1977. Vol. 1. p. 317-9).
5. ----------. Will ISI's Arts and Humanities Citation Index® revolutionize scholarship? Current Contents (32): 8 August 1977. (Reprinted in: Ibid., 1980. Vol. 3. p. 204-8.)
6. ----------. Announcing the SCI Compact Disc Edition: CD-ROM gigabyte storage technology, novel software, and bibliographic coupling make desktop research and discovery a reality. Current Contents (22): 30 May 1988. (Reprinted in: Ibid., 1990. Vol. 11. p. 160-70.)
7. ----------. KeyWords Plus®: ISI's breakthrough retrieval method. Part 1. Expanding your searching power on Current Contents on Diskette®. Current Contents (32):5-9, 6 August 1990. (Reprinted in: Ibid., 1991. Vol. 13. 295-9.)