How to use CoCites — the basics

Cecile Janssens
7 min readApr 13, 2021

A radically different search method

The default method to searching scientific literature is entering keywords in a literature database. The quality and relevance of the keywords determines the quality and relevance of the results. Entering several best-guess keywords will return relevant articles, but they are likely not all there is and may not be a ‘representative’ selection. Researchers who don’t want to miss any relevant studies write extensive search queries for multiple literature databases that may catch all relevant articles and many others. Our preferred strategy is rather inefficient.

CoCites searches the scientific literature radically differently. The tool finds related articles using co-citations. The start of the search isn’t a set of keywords, but a set of one or more articles that is exactly what the search should find more of.

Searching co-citations and citations for one or more articles

The co-citations are the articles that are cited together with any of the articles in the query set, by experts on the topic. A co-citation search can only find articles that are cited and falls short on find articles with few citations and newly published articles. As these articles themselves cite multiple articles on the same topic, we can find them by tracking the citations to all articles in the query set. A citation search will find these articles when the query set contains enough articles about the specific topic.

This blog summarizes how to perform the co-citation and the citation searches using CoCites for one article and for a set of articles.

Finding the co-citations of a single article using the browser extension

The CoCites browser extension (www.cocites.com) embeds the CoCites search button in PubMed and Google Scholar. This button is blue or grey. The blue button, with the article’s number of citations, is an active link that opens in CoCites; the grey button is inactive, meaning the article is not (yet) in the citation database.

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Cecile Janssens

Professor of epidemiology | Emory University, Atlanta USA | Writes about (genetic) prediction, critical thinking, evidence, and lack thereof.