Cited Author Searching: Implications for Instruction in Forensic Psychology

Article excerpt

Cited author database searches are an effective means of identifying a list of references that have 'cited' the works of a particular author. Yet graduate-level instruction on the efficacy of search strategies, when commentary on a specific author are needed, has been largely ignored. This paper presents a framework for cited author searching with an illustrated example in the field of forensic psychology, i.e., bibliographic retrieval of articles that include references to an expert witness's published work. Such applications should facilitate instruction in graduate-level training.

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Specialty areas in the behavioral sciences such as forensic psychology require training and instructional approaches that are highly focused and guided by the professional needs of the field. Even though many graduate psychology programs offer specialty training in the forensics area, pedagogic instruction tends to be traditionally oriented (Hess & Weiner, 1999). For example, online searching strategies are often overlooked in teaching. The current paper illustrates a novel approach on obtaining research on court-related topics which has been largely ignored in the literature to date, i.e., cited author searching.

In the legal arena, it is often necessary for an attorney to challenge the credibility of the oppositions' expert testimony. While many tactics are used to accomplish this goal, an easily overlooked approach in this challenge is conducting a comprehensive review of the witness's previous published work on issues relevant to their current testimony (Piotrowski & Perdue, 2003a). Strategically, the task is to identify conflicting opinions published by the expert witness over time, or the commentary of other authors that provide challenges, critiques, or limitations on the expert witness's prior writings.

Identifying this crucial literature can often be accomplished by conducting an online 'cited reference' search of an appropriate database using the name of the expert witness as a 'cited author.' This type of search is an extremely helpful feature that provides citations to publications that have 'cited' the selected author. Concurrently, instances of the author 'self-citing' his/her prior publications are also identified in such a search. By tracing these cited references, an astute researcher can often locate publications wherein the opposing expert has either contradicted himself/herself or the expert has been challenged with critical analyses on the accuracy or veracity of a particular position or statement by other authors. Identifying instances wherein the witness has published positions contrary to that enunciated in court or in which other experts have published challenges to the validity of such positions can be critical in the cross-examination of expert witnesses or to their pre-trial testimony. Therefore, an investigator may find it advantageous to consider retrieving publications of this nature by performing a 'cited reference' search using the name of the expert witness as the cited author.

Analyzing cited references via these search strategies can result in an effective, complementary means to identifying a particular author's publishing history (Reed & Baxter, 2003). Fortunately, a number of traditional, as well as relatively new databases that provide for such 'cited reference' searching are currently available (see Table 1). For many years, researchers have relied on the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and its premier databases Social SciSearch and SciSearch since these highly respected databases were the first to offer retrieval of articles that cite the works of a specific author (Garfield, 1998). Such tracking of a cited author usually leads to additional, related articles. But as stated above, this is also an excellent, and often overlooked avenue to locating articles in which the testimony of an author-expert witness may be impeached or where the expert witness may be associated with holding contradictory positions. …