Library Notes for Political Science

Teaching resources, news, and links to keep McGill’s Political Scientists informed

Better know a database: Scopus

Posted by Megan on October 29, 2009

Better know a database #2: Scopus

Despite its unpleasantly medical-sounding name, Scopus is a useful source of articles published in the social sciences. The publishers bill it as the “largest abstract and citation database.” While size estimations can be debated, Scopus has increased its coverage of the Social Sciences recently, now indexing over 5,000 journals in subjects that include Political Science, Economics, Philosophy, and Sociology. It has many similar features to it’s kissing cousin Web of Science (a.k.a. Web of Knowledge), a well-known citation index.

Other facts and figures:

  • 80% of all Scopus records, back to 1823, have an abstract
  • Includes over 69 million additional cited references that are not covered by Scopus as such (e.g. books)
  • Includes “articles-in-press” from over 3,000 journals


One of the more unique features of Scopus, though, is its citation searching capabilities. For a given article, the database can be used to retrieve both cited references and papers that subsequently cited the article, allowing the searcher to chain forward and backward in time.

The search results page conveniently includes a count of how many times each article has been cited by another article in the database. The results for a given search are analyzed to show the frequency of results from particular authors, journals, years, and institutions.

Scopus is also fun for vanity searching. You can search by author or institution to retrieve a profile of a researcher whose work is indexed in the database (see second image below).

The major drawback to Scopus is the comparatively small number of social sciences journals indexed. The analytical features are therefore less applicable than with the natural sciences. But it is still a useful tool to use in tandem with other sources.




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