Is there an easy way to check for the "popularity" (or more particularly, "appealing to experts") or citations of some reference?

That is, when I find some reference and want to check how "good" it is w/o having to read the thing.

Some confusions:

  • There can be quality papers with low citation counts. E.g. if the paper considers an unpopular subfield/subtopic. Or if the topic is not an active research topic at the moment.

  • A highly citated paper can be false if it's popular due to biases, rather than accurate paper. E.g. some psychological paper that studies something which feeds people's "subjective validation". That is, people believe a paper is good, because if fits their intentions.

  • 4
    Professional tools, such as Web of Science, include citation counts.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 17, 2020 at 15:08
  • 10
    Popular need not be the same as good. A highly cited paper may be cited so much because newer papers use it as an example of something bad, for instance.
    – GoodDeeds
    Jun 17, 2020 at 16:13
  • 4
    Citations should be a good approximation in many cases. The previous comment was a caveat: no all "good" papers are highly cited, and vice versa.
    – GoodDeeds
    Jun 17, 2020 at 18:29
  • 1
    See: academia.stackexchange.com/q/37021/19607
    – Kimball
    Jun 18, 2020 at 14:30
  • 1
    Even if popularity was a measure of general paper quality (which it is not), it is irrelevant to the quality of the one particular argument or data that you want to reuse, which may not have been considered closely by previous citing papers.
    – UJM
    Jul 20, 2020 at 6:48

2 Answers 2


The easiest way is to type the title of the reference into Google Scholar and to look at its citation counts.

There are other databases which calculate the number of citations a document receives, such as Web of Science, Scopus, or Dimensions.

  • 1
    I would think including the link given in the comments on the original post to the question about why a high citation count may not be a reliable indicator of how good or bad a publication is in this answer would be sensible (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/37021/…)
    – jovisg
    Jun 18, 2020 at 15:29

when I find some reference and want to check how "good" it is w/o having to read the thing.

No. There isn't. You can not check how good a reference is without reading it. Or at least, any method of doing so is some balance of effort vs accuracy, and any method that gave you a sufficiently reliable measure is as much, or more work than reading the thing.

e.g. you could read literature reviews in the field and see what they say about the paper. But you'd have to read several, and thats going to be more work than reading the original paper, and it would still not be as good as reading the paper (as long as you were qualified to judge the quality of the original paper).

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