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Library "Do-It-Yourself" (DIY)

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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.) 


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 "I need to know if a journal is significant in my field."   
  • Find out how many times the article has been cited. Look in the library database Web of Science or in Google Scholar. When looking at the number of citations, consider the date 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 be useful.

Note: Web of Science and Google Scholar are great ways to see connections between sources and authors, but their "cited by" lists are not comprehensive. Web of Science also includes content in both social sciences and arts and humanities.  


Finding Citations in Web of Science

In Web of Science, look for the number of times an article is cited: