BEE Tutorial: Case Study 3-


In this tutorial you will learn how to:

  • Find primary scientific information and follow the trail of citations and cited references

  • Search several different specialized databases for primary and secondary information, using both basic and advanced techniques, in order to quickly track which articles and authors are seminal in research area

  • Assess the impact of a given scientific paper and top journals in biological engineering and critically compare and evaluate the information you find from various sources according to specific criteria in order to decide whether or not to include it in your bibliography

Searching for primary literature

Go to Web of Science from the library website. If you need a refresher on how to reach and search these databases, refer to the earlier tutorial or watch this video for tips (06:24).

Web of Science has analytical features that are available in very few other databases that allow you to quickly and easily follow the scholarly conversation on a subject in your field and discover the most highly cited and influential articles, researchers and journals. Because of this Web of Science is a classic standard in the life sciences field.

NOTE: In order to ensure that the "Analyze Results" and "Create Citation Report" options appear, you must be sure you are searching ONLY the Web of Science Core Collection (chosen from the drop-down menu in Web of Knowledge when you begin your search).


HINT: You'll notice that most top-cited articles are usually older. This is because the scholarly publication cycle takes so long; it takes awhile for an article to get into circulation and then get cited by other researchers. If you see a relatively recent article with a lot of citations, this is a hot article.

Assessing the Impact of Research

There are other ways to find important authors, institutions, and sources/journals. To do this we'll use the Analyze Results tool in Web of Science.

  • Choose Web of Science Core Collection at the top of the screen BEFORE BEGINNING YOUR SEARCH.

  • Do your search

  • Choose the Analyze Results button at the bottom of the Refine Results toolbar (make sure that you have not hidden it).

  • Choose the criteria you want to analyze by (author, source title, etc) and how many results you want to analyze and click Analyze

  • Check the boxes besides the results you want to view or exclude

Analyze Results option from search results

HINT: Depending on how you do your search you will get different results on the analysis.

HINT: Modern research is highly collaborative. Some papers may have more listed authors than there are people who will ever read it! The convention in some areas is that the first-listed author in a paper may be either the "primary investigator" OR the head of the laboratory. However in other fields, to help support their graduate students or post-doctoral fellows, the primary investigators may give first author credit to them. Check the affiliations listed below the list of authors. It will often say something about each person's role. If not, doing a web search for the authors can help you discover additional information.

Finding Influential Journals in the Field: Journal Impact Factors

To find out which journals are influential, in Web of Science use Journal Citation Reports and find the Journal Impact Factor.

A journal's impact factor is a "measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period". This measure is disputed: it tends to favor review journals but overall it can serve as a general measure of a journal's influence in a field.

HINT: For a more in-depth treatment, see:

Impact Factor (IF) is a rough, quantitative proxy for how influential a given journal is. Very simply, for any given year IF is an average of the number of times articles from a journal were cited over the past 2 years, relative to the number of items published (although it's possible to calculate an IF over any length of time): In a given year, the impact factor of a journal is the average number of citations to those papers that were published during the two preceding years. For example, the 2015 impact factor of a journal would be calculated as follows:

A = the number of times articles published in 2013 and 2014 were cited by indexed journals during 2015

B = the total number of "citable items" published in 2013 and 2014. ("Citable items" are usually articles, reviews, proceedings, or notes; not editorials or letters to the editor.)

2015 impact factor = A/B

To find impact factors:

  • In Web of Science, go to Journal Citation Reports at the top of the page

Link to Journal Citation Reports in top menu bar of Web of Science

You can also reach it from the library website by choosing Databases, typing in Journal Citation Reports, and clicking on the title to enter.

  • Select journals by subject Category and Year. If you're looking for cancer research, you'll need to look for "Oncology." You can see where journals are in relation to the others in that category 

Network analysis diagram of journals by impact factor rank

List of journals sorted by journal impact factor

In Web of Science, when you do an article search you can also see a particular journal's impact factor on the right hand side of an article record in the blue section under Additional Information.