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Citation Chaining

Use citation chaining to find other quality sources for your research.

  • Backward chaining starts with a quality source that discusses your research topic in detail. Use the citations (references) in your source to find other, related research. Sources you find with backward chaining will be older than your original.
  • Forward chaining also starts with a quality source that discusses your research topic in detail. You'll then look for other sources that have cited your source. Sources you find with forward chaining will be newer than your original.

The following video provides a quick introduction to citation chaining. Use the popout button to view a larger version.

Managing Your Research Sources

Organizing large collections of sources/references is an important research management strategy. Each researcher must choose the approach that works best for them.

Citation management software products such as Mendeley and Zotero can be useful tools for managing your sources. You can use them totools to create citations and bibliographies, make notes on each entry, edit citations, import/export, and share your sources with others.

Using software isn't required, and many successful researchers use less technical methods very effectively, including cue cards and notes, building lists in Google Docs, Word, or Excel, or combinations of several methods. Be sure to try the best option for your personal workflow.

Some reasons to consider Mendeley:

  • Most useful when your sources consist mainly of PDFs. 
  • Web plugin available for most web browsers, and there's also a desktop version.
  • Online (cloud) storage.
  • Very well developed social collaboration tools. Find citations from similar users and search within a crowd-sourced research database.
  • Integrates with MRU's LibrarySearch citation export feature.
  • Desktop version already installed on all publicly accessible computers at MRU.

Some reasons to consider Zotero:

  • Good if your sources are from websites (HTML) and PDFs.
  • Web plugin available for most web browsers, and there's also a desktop version.
  • Online (cloud) storage.
  • Allows easy citation additions from websites like Amazon
  • Well liked interface for tagging and writing notes to accompany citations

Following the Scholarly Conversation

The scholarly conversation refers to the research and related discussion within and about a particular discipline.

  • Look for scholarly background sources to introduce you to key authors and their works on your topic/theory/primary theme.
    • Oxford Handbooks offer thorough introductions to topics and a critical survey of the current state of scholarship within the field;
    • Cambridge Companions series combine the functionality of a subject dictionary with the breadth, scope and accessibility of an encyclopedia;
    • Oxford Companions are similar to the above;
    • Critical editions of primary texts that include commentaries, annotations, etc. (e.g., this annotated version of Paradise Lost);
  • Use the references/works cited list in any of these to find more good sources.
  • Try searching Google Scholar or MRU's main LibrarySearch to find other research published by the authors of the publications you discovered above.
  • For very recent, developing research, you can also look at theses and dissertations.

Access Materials Beyond our Library

So you've found a reference to an interesting source that's not available through our library? You have options! Use our interlibrary loan service to request that item, and we'll try to find it for you. In addition, through our collaboration with other universities in Alberta and across Canada, you can you access an extensive set of research and resource libraries.


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Richard Hayman

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