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Searching the literature

A guide for staff and students undertaking a thorough literature review

Snowballing and cited reference searching

Snowballing and cited reference searching build on an article or other document you already know is relevant to your study – a “citation pearl”.

  • Look through the list of cited references to go back in time by following up the sources the authors used. This is often called snowballing. 

  • Use the “citation pearl” to go forward in time by using a citation index. The quickest way is to paste the title into Google Scholar and click 'Cited by'.


screenshot from Google Scholar showing the 'Cited by' option highlighted


screenshot from Scopus showing the Cited by figure highlighted.


screenshot from Web Of Science showing Times cited figure highlighted