Library Research Guide to Psychology: Illustrated Search Strategy and Sources

By Nancy E. Douglas; Nathan E. Baum | Go to book overview

5 The Author Approach: Social Sciences Citation Index

After using encyclopedias, review journals and subject indexes, you may feel you have sufficient book and periodical resources to write your research paper. However, when you are aware of certain authors who have written key books or articles on your topic, it is a good idea to try to find out what else these authors have written. In many cases, their more recent works will update or revise their earlier research. In addition, it would be interesting to discover what other researchers have written in reaction to the work of these authors.

Finding other articles by an author can be done fairly easily with all of the indexes which we have previously discussed. Social Sciences Index lists authors alphabetically within its subject listings, and Psychological Abstracts and Sociological Abstracts have author indexes in both the individual issues and the cumulations. An author discovered through the subject approach may be worth researching in these author indexes. For example, in working with Psychological Abstracts in Chapter 4 we turned up abstract 7577 by Ed Cairns. In the Psychological Abstracts author index, two other numbers are listed by his name (see FIGURE 5.1). Social Sciences Citation Index goes a step beyond the other indexes in that it also lets you know which researchers have cited a particular author's work in their own research.

FIGURE 5.1. Psychological Abstracts, vol. 65, no. 6, pt. 2. Cumulative author index.
"Choose an author as you choose a friend."

-- Wentworth Dillon, Essay on Translated Verse


How Social Sciences Citation Index Is Constructed

The Social Sciences Citation Index (S.S.C.I.) coverage begins with 1966. It currently indexes the articles, editorials, letters, news items and which appear in over 4,300 periodicals in the social sciences, and also indexes some books. Some of the periodicals are only selectively indexed, but for each article chosen for indexing, the procedure is the same: the S.S.C.I. staff takes all citations from the article's bibliography and rearranges them, making the citations the major element and listing under each citation the author who cited it. For example, FIGURE 5.2 shows parts of a journal article: the author and title of the article, the name of the journal in which it appeared, the volume and page of the journal, and part of the bibliography of the article. Illustrated at the bottom of FIGURE 5.2 is the standardized format into which all this information is converted by the S.S.C.I. staff. Through computer manipulation, the hundreds of thousands of index entries are assembled into one master list, alphabetized by cited author -- a citation index (FIGURE 5.3).


How to Use the "Citation Index"

By looking up some of the key books or articles discovered through your initial research, you can tell who has cited them and effectively update the information gathered thus far. For example, Howitt's book on violence and the mass media, published in 1975, can be traced from that year to the present. FIGURE 5.3 shows you what the 1979 "Citation Index" of S.S.C.I. lists under Howitt's name. Notice that Howitt has written another book and several articles which were cited by various authors in 1979. However, you are only interested in his 1975 book about violence and the mass media. As FIGURE 5.3 illustrates, the "Citation Index" shows that five authors have cited Howitt's book during 1979. You can expect, therefore, that the works of these authors have something to do with the subject of Howitt's book. However, to get some clue as to whether these works are indeed relevant, you need to go on to the "Source Index."

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