9. Following the trail

One way to find key resources on your topic is to follow relevant references given in books and articles. Of course you wouldn't want to follow every reference; but if you find a good book or article on your topic, it may well lead you to other relevant articles or books.

Say you're reading the 2001 article "The use of fluoride varnishes in the prevention of dental caries: a short review". You come across the following sentence: "The possibility of preventing baby bottle tooth decay with fluoride varnish application to the maxillary incisors was investigated by Weinstein et al (1994)." You might decide you want to read the Weinstein study. If so, you would look under W in the list of references at the end of the article, where you would find the following citation:

Weinstein P, Domoto P, Koday M et al (1994). Results of a promising open trial to prevent baby bottle tooth decay: a fluoride varnish study. ASDC J Dent Child 61: 338-341.
Since this tells you the journal title, volume, and page numbers where the Weinstein article was published, you could easily retrieve the article.

(For help in understanding the above citation, including the journal title abbreviation, see Section 8, Deciphering citations.)

Remember that authors are only human, so citations you find in a bibliography won't always be accurate -- e.g., the year or journal title might be given incorrectly.

If a citation said "Angle Orthodontist 73: 952", and you went to volume 73 of the journal Angle Orthodontist and discovered that the last page in that volume was page 768 (i.e., there was no page 952), then you would know that something in the citation was incorrect. You might suspect that perhaps the article actually has a different page number, or different volume number, or even different journal title.

If a citation doesn't add up, try searching for the article title or the author in Medline, to get a correct citation.

Title     Author

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