What is the most reliable way of finding the most relevant publications in scientific field and particularly a specific topic?

Does Google Scholar citing results suffice?

  • Why would citation count say anything about "relevance"?
    – ff524
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 15:28
  • 1
    write up the name of some experts working on this topic for years (google scholar) and look who wrote a review article, therein should be your list of relevant publications. Some branches like Physics have journals only dedicated to in-depth reviews (e.g. review of modern physics). A search engine cannot answer you what the relevant publications are, especially now (which a fresh review article does somemtimes). Often there are invited papers to experts containing "Roadmap", "Opportunities", "Challenges" in the title dealing with current state, open questions, necessary experiments...
    – Hauser
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 1:17
  • by "review article" do you mean a survey? can you clarify what a "review article" is, more precisely? Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


IMHO, it is difficult to say which search strategy is most reliable. The Google Scholar (as well as Web of Science, Scopus, etc.) citations are a good place to start but they definitely should not be your only guide.

Another item to look at are survey papers and research monographs in your field of interest (and, nowadays, Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, etc.; note also that sometimes plain Google search instead of Google Scholar search brings more helpful results) and the references therein.

There are least two reasons to do so:

  • sometimes an important result makes it straight into surveys and monographs which get cited instead of the original paper(s);

  • a paper with an important negative result (e.g. one which closes certain research avenues) is sometimes not particularly well cited just because people move on to other research directions.

Yet another way to find relevant references is the so-called snowballing method a good description of which is given at this answer (without using the term snowballing).

And, of course, it is a good idea to ask your colleagues, especially after you've already done some searching on your own and just want to make sure that the search results you have are reasonably complete.


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