Answered By: Priscilla Coulter
Last Updated: Mar 17, 2017     Views: 31

Scholarly articles and books will always cite the sources that they use, and most will also include a thorough literature review.  That means that, when you find a relevant source, you can "mine" it for even more relevant sources.

Here's an example:

I am interested in problem-solving and learning behavior in bees and bumblebees.  I found a really perfect article:  Mirwan, H. B., & Kevan, P. G. (2014). Problem solving by worker bumblebees Bombus impatiens (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Animal Cognition, 17(5), 1053-61.

To mine it for citations, I will follow these steps:

1.  Previous research is usually mentioned in both the introduction and discussion sections of scholarly articles.  So, I will begin by reading these, with an eye out for sources that will be useful for my paper. 

  • The introduction is at the beginning of the article (the first few pages).
  • The discussion will follow the results section (toward the end of the article). 

2.  I notice that there are many parenthetical citations following statements about how bees learn to navigate, communicate and manipulate flowers.  I'll highlight or circle each of those parenthetical citations in the text.

Click to see a larger image of the introduction, with parenthetical citations highlighted:

                               Click to see a larger image of the discussion, with parenthetical citations highlighted.

Article introduction, with parenthetical citations highlighted.

     Article discussion, with parenthetical citations highlighted.

3.  When I have highlighted all of the parenthetical citations that are associated with my topic, I will flip back to the references section (the last few pages of the article).   Now, I find each of the citations that I marked in the text and highlight its full citation. 

Click to see a larger image of the references, with full citations highlighted:

Article references, with full citations highlighted.

4.  With a full citation for each source, I can now track them down, one by one.  To learn how, see:


See also:  I found a great source for my topic. Is there a quick way to find articles or books that have cited it?

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