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Literature Reviews: 'Pearl Growing'

'Pearl Growing' or Citation Mining

A powerful strategy good researchers use to find information for their literature reviews is known as 'pearl growing' or citation mining.

Based on the idea that sand forms grain by grain into a pearl, so a literature review develops citation by citation.

Pearl growing/citation mining is a process of looking for information that can work backwards or forwards:

  • Backwards: You can discover new information resources for your review by looking at the bibliography of a book or an article and seeing which resources an author consulted to do their research. Subsequently, you can then check those resources and perhaps incorporate them into your literature review.
  • Forwards: You can discover new information resources by determining who cited the book or article you're currently looking at. Then you can look for those sources that cited your first source and incorporate them into your review.

'Pearl Growing' in 5 Minutes

[Video courtesy: Harvard Kennedy School Library - hkslibrary, youtube]

This video overviews two important activities involved in 'pearl growing' or citation mining:

  • Looking at a resource's bibliography and seeing who a particular author has cited
  • Looking for resources that have cited a particular article, book, or resource (this process is also called 'cited reference searching' -- see the box below).

Cited Reference Searching

if you find an article, book, report or paper that is important to your research, you can use its reference list to locate other items of interest.

VIU Library has prepared a guide on Cited Reference Searching, which looks at tools you can use such as

  • Library databases
  • Web of Science
  • Google (Google Scholar and Google Books)
  • Amazon
  • PubMed

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