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I Do Not Know Whether A Work Is Significant In My Field

Some published works have a significant impact on their own or other disciplines, while others have less influence. While there is no one way to tell what impact an article or book has had, here are some things to look at:

For a book:

  • Look for reviews in scholarly publications. Search for the title of the book in library databases considered important to the relevant discipline (for example, Science Direct for the sciences or the MLA International Bibliography for literature). The existence of reviews is a good sign, but also read what the reviews say about the work. 
  • Find out how often the book has been cited through Google Scholar. When looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the book and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer book will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.)  

  • Look at the publisher. Scholarly publishers like University presses are more selective about the works they publish. However, just because a work is of high quality does not mean it necessarily has had an impact on its field.


For an article:

  • Look at the journal. Is the article published in a highly regarded journal in the discipline? Usually, the best ranked journals will publish quality works from highly respected scholars in the field. However, just because something is of high quality does not mean it has made an impact on the field, so the quality of the journal should not be your only criterion. For more information on evaluating journals, take a look at Determining Whether a Journal is Significant in my Field.
  • Find out how many times the article has been cited with Google Scholar or the library database Social Sciences Citation IndexWhen looking at the number of citations, consider the age of the article and compare it to other works on the subject. (A newer article will probably have fewer citations than an older, well-known one.) A less popular research topic is also less likely to be cited, since fewer scholars read and write about it. Comparing one article to those on a similar topic and of a similar age will give you a clearer view.

Note:The Social Sciences Citation Index and Google Scholar are great ways to see connections between sources and authors, but their "cited by" lists are not comprehensive. Also, keep in mind that the Social Sciences Citation Index focuses on that discipline and has less information on humanities sources. 

Finding Citations in Social Sciences Citation Index: In this database, you can do a basic or advanced keyword search, a Cited Reference Search (to see how many times a particular article has been cited, and by whom), or an Author Search (to see how often articles by a particular author have been cited, and by whom). To find the Author Search option, click "More" on the database start page.

Choose Cited Reference Search or click "More" for the author search option

Try a keyword search and sort by Times Cited--highest to lowest to see the most-cited articled related to your research topic. You can click Create Citation Report or Analyze Results if you want to really dig into the data!


Sort by TImes Cited--Highest to Lowest to see the most frequently-cited articles in your search results.