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IWU OCLS Tutorials: Introduction to Research - Seminal Research


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What is Seminal Research?


Seminal works are the initial pieces that present an important or influential idea within a particular discipline. These articles are referred to (referenced) repeatedly in the literature, so you're likely to see the citations again and again. 

  • There is no single strategy for finding seminal articles. Any strategy relies on thoroughly examining and synthesizing the literature.
  • Don't expect to see articles labeled as seminal.
  • You'll start seeing the same author and title frequently. 


Google Scholar

  • Google Scholar will show you how many times others have cited an article. 
  • The higher the number, the more likely it is a seminal article. 


Examples of seminal research:

  1. An example of a seminal paper is the 1953 publication of A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in the journal Nature in which they describe the structure of DNA for the first time.
    • In Google Scholar, under the article, it shows it has been cited 17,000+ times.

  1. Another example is Michael E. Porter's 1996 article entitled What is Strategy? This article is considered a seminal work because it provided a clear and widely accepted definition of "strategy" and discounted many alternate views of what strategy is. The article has been cited thousands of times and has influenced business leaders worldwide.
    • In Google Scholar, under the article, it shows it has been cited 19,000+ times.




Sage Premier e-Journal Collection with Google Scholar

  • Search for articles by topic or keywords. 
  • Do not limit by date because seminal works can be written decades ago. 
  • Click on the Abstract link. 
  • Under the Abstract and Keywords, you will find a list of References
  • Under each Reference is a Google Scholar link that will take you to the Google Scholar entry and show you how many times it has been cited. 




Dissertations & Theses Global

This database will help you know if your dissertation topic is unique and identify seminal research. 

  • Search for articles by keywords or phrase (include quotation marks around your phrase, e.g., "project management"). 
  • Do not limit by date or Full Text. 
  • You may want to limit the Language to English. You may not want to restrict the language because you could find a dissertation in another language with an English abstract that could help you. 
  • Identify dissertations similar to your topic. 
  • Open the literature review and scan it for the most likely seminal books or articles. 
  • Then you can do a citation analysis in Google Scholar and see how many times it has been cited. 


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  • Librarians may not be available all open hours, but will answer ASAP.