Web of Science

last modified 2016-01-28T16:40:17-04:00

Web of Science is a suite of citation databases containing citation and abstract information on articles in over 13,000 journals in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. It is a great resource to find high-quality journal articles in most disciplines, track the usage of articles over time, and to find articles written by a given author or institution.


In Web of Science, you can perform multiple types of searches, depending on your needs:
  • Basic Search: topic, author, journal name, etc. - the standard search option
  • Author Search: search for articles by a particular author
  • Cited Reference Search: search for articles that cite an author or work
  • Advanced Search: construct a search query using Boolean logic and other search operators

Each is explained in detail below, except for Advanced Search, which is not recommended for most students. You can change between search types from the main page - just use the menu dropdown above your search box. 

Basic Search

When you first access Web of Science, the default basic search screen will look like that pictured below, allowing you to run a basic search by topic (similar to a keyword search) and to easily select a publication date range. If you need to run a more complex search, you can add more search lines and/or change the default "topic" to a variety of other options, such as author's name, title (for article titles), or publication name (for journal titles).

If you open the "More Settings" option under the timespan, you can also limit your search to particular collections within Web of Science, including the Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index, and the Emerging Sources Citation Index. 

On the results screen, you should keep in mind that the default is to organize results by publication date rather than relevance (which is probably what you are most familiar with). If your first few results look off-topic, you may want to try changing the "sort by" field at the top to "Relevance" first.

If you decide you need to refine your search, many options for doing so are provided on the left under "Refine Results," including search within results, categories, document types, authors, etc. For each of these, selecting "more options/values" will show you a longer list of available options.

When you find an item of interest, click the orange "find full text" button to see if we have full text available. This will quickly search our other databases for the full article and provide links if available (see this guide for more details). If unavailable, you may still request the article through Interlibrary Loan, and we will get a PDF copy to you within a few business days.


You may also see links to find the full text directly from the publisher - these should take you directly to the article online.

 Author Search

This search feature allows you to locate all available works by a given author, using 1 to 3 steps, depending on your needs. For authors with unusual names, you can simply search by their name, but Web of Science also allows you to further refine to authors within a particular domain and who work for a particular institution.

1. You must start by entering a last name/family name. You may also add initials for first or given names, but can skip this step if you aren't certain. If you are finished, you can select "finish search" at this point.

2. Select a research domain. Web of Science will provide you with a list of available options based on the information they have in their database. You may expand the major topic areas to focus on sub-categories if needed. If you are finished, you can select "finish search" at this point.

3. Select an Organization. Web of Science will again give you a list of options based on the information they have in their database. Be aware that some researchers switch institutions during their careers, so this option can help you limit to articles from different phases in someone's career - if you know their work history.

Cited Reference Searching

This search option allows you to find sources which have all cited a single article - similar to using a reference list to find additional works on a topic, this feature allows you to trace the impact of an article after publication. For this reason, it is best used with articles that are at least a few years old.

Begin by entering some of the citation information for your source article into the search boxes. The more information you provide here, the more quickly you will find your source article information.

Your first page of results will be for any articles that fit your search parameters; this could be more than one, depending on the amount and type of information you entered. Select the article you are interested in from the list by checking the box on the left, then click "Finish Search."

You will then be brought to a screen displaying all articles listed in Web of Science which cite your source article. Note that there may be others, as Web of Science does not index all publications. The search results will display exactly the same as a basic search.

Citation Maps

Web of Science provides this visual aid for tracking the citation trails backward and forward in time, up to two generations. This is the tool from which the database derives its name, as the interconnections between articles can look like a spiderweb. It is one of the most useful tools for tracking down high-impact articles, as well as for locating more recently-published articles on a topic.

Access the citation map for an article through the item record page (the page with the abstract and all other details about the article). You will find this tool on the right, under "Citation Network."

You can create your own map going forward or backward in time, or both, at either one or two generations of removal. Note that selecting two generations will likely slow the response time, especially if you try to include both backward and forward in time. Select your options and click "Create Map," found in the lower right corner.

Be patient while your map is generated!

Once your map is displayed, you can click around in the map to view connections, or browse through the list of articles in the lower left. If you have a large number of results, you can also use the tools at the top of the page to refine your map and list. Double-click a colored box in the map, or check the box in the list, to select a specific article - details of the article will be displayed on the lower right. Click the article title to be taken to the item record page, from which you can locate the full text.