Forward and reverse citations lookups

edited June 4, 2019
When reading a paper I often import a fair portion of

a) The papers cited in the paper's bibliography (reverse citation lookup)
b) The papers citing the paper (forward citation lookup)

Right now the process is a bit manual - and there are some pros to that. For one, I don't just indiscriminately grab everything, but find it pays to be selective.

a) I annotate the paper's bibliography in a pdf reader. Then I make a note with the most important cited paper titles; I then manually search and import each document with google scholar. Upon review of these documents, I turn the note into a lightly annotated bibliography.

For b), I manually copy the paper's title into Scholar and review its citing papers. I gather the most important citing papers, review their abstracts, and them import them; I then further review the full-texts and make an annotated list of these documents.

I typically gather both annotated lists into the paper's individual notes document - This process can be a bit slow and needlessly manual. It would be nice to be able to

i) invoke a bibliography lookup service directly from a zotero item
ii) auto-lookup a zotero item in a forward citation service like google scholar, citeseerx, google patents, etc
iii) automatically generate the annotated bibliography stubs following step i) or ii)

I would not mind working towards this goal. Would any devs be interested in being a sponsor/mentor this project? I could use a clever brain in a jar to help me brainstorm how to attack this problem ;)
  • You might want to start by checking out a plugin by @zuphilip that does some of this
  • I vaguely recall @emilianoeheyns also having done some related work using Microsoft Academic.

    Given its incredibly strict bot policies, I'm pretty sure Google Scholar isn't going to prove a viable strategy.
  • I've worked on MS Academic. The service has some rate restrictions in place but is otherwise pretty usable, even if the API is a bit strange -- any request always requires two hits to the service, one to go from a sort-of-natural-language to a structured query, and then a 2nd to use that. I've tried just directly crafting the structured query but never got it to work. My code is at
  • There is also a lookup service for GoogleScholar under the the "Find" menu (green button to the right).
  • I also have Lookup engines for forward and backward citation searching in Web of Science here:
  • Thanks for these fantastic leads. This has given me a few ideas:

    - Scholar search lets me get to the forward citations in just a few clicks (much better than copying/pasting, and I can select multiple items)

    - Writing a basic search plugin for MS Academic is a nice low-hanging fruit for a first zotero contribution (should probably send a PR to @bwiernik's zotero-tools when I'm done).

    - In general I'm quite surprised about the quality, usability and openness of MSA; the Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) could be a valuable resource for broader citation graph work

    - The Open Citations Corpus lets me find both forward AND backwards citations; @zuphilip's plugin it could become my go-to for extracting backwards citations; the COCI ontology and corpus is very exciting!
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