Literature Reviews for Public Affairs and Policy: Following Citations

Designed as a guide for students in the PAP PhD program.

Use discovered sources to find similar material

Databases are an excellent place to start, but they will not help you find all the material on your topic. Once you have exhausted your search opens in the databases, use the materials you've found to discover additional sources. You only need a handful of sources to untangle a body of literature. Pay attention to:

  • Bibliographies and footnotes in an article.
  • Which authors and journals come up most frequently.
  • Is there a press or think-tank that is cited often?
  • Read the literature reviews of every article to find which studies they build upon and refute.


As an example, I'll use the article Political protest 2.0: Social media and the 2012 student strike in the province of Quebec, Canada

Bibliographies and Footnotes

Use the article's citations to find the works it builds upon.

Suggestions via Database

Databases will often recommend sources that similar to the article you've discovered.


Literature Review Section

Every peer-reviewed article will have a literature review that you can build upon.


Who has cited this?

Use GoogleScholar to learn what recent works have quoted the article.

Database Record / Metadata

The database record will tell you about the author and publisher, which may also direct you to similar works.