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In theory, creating a citation alert with Google Scholar is easy. Search for the paper, click on the "Cited by X" link just below the result, scroll down and click on "Create alert", and finally confirm by clicking on "Create alert".

However this works only for articles that already have at least one citation. If an article has never been cited, the "Cited by X" link doesn't show up. This is annoying because as an academic researcher I would like to be alerted when a given article is cited for the first time. Do you know of a way to work around that limitation?

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There are ways to create citation alerts outside of google-scholar (and, in some cases, these are field specific). One example is the Thompson Reuters Web of Knowledge Citation Alert. Indiana University has a helpful list of how to create Journal and Search Alerts from a pretty wide array of databases. – batpigandme Jun 10 '13 at 16:42
I'd like to avoid using 10 different alert systems for 10 articles published by different publishers. Plus these systems usually only track citations of papers published by them. But thanks for the link anyway, it can turn out to be useful. I also know Web of Knowledge, but it's usually lagging behind and not tracking as many citations as Scholar, plus it's behind a pay-wall and not available everywhere. – Calimo Jun 11 '13 at 8:09
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Ok, I played a bit around and I think I found the trick.

You need a Google Scholar profile for this, and you need to have your articles associated with your profile. I did this a long while ago, and don't remember how I did it, but it should be quite straigtforward. And it's not the point of this question.

  1. On "My Citations" page, you have a table with 3 columns: "Title / Author", "Cited by" and "Year". Scroll down until you reach your uncited article and click on its linked title.
  2. You arrive on a page that contains some details about the article and that you can edit, export or delete. Below the bibliographic data, you have a line that is entitled "Scholar articles". Hover this link and notice it ends with btnI=Lucky.
  3. Copy this link (right click > Copy Link Location in Firefox looks like the easiest way to go) and save the long 20-digits number after the cluster= part (something like 12909901205937540955). This number is the ID of your article in Scholar's database.
  4. Now go back to the list of your citations, and click on any number in the Cited by column. This performs a search for citations of an article with a citation. If you don't have any cited paper yet, check out step 8.
  5. Check the URL of this page: it ends with an other 20-digits ID of an article with citations after the cites= part.
  6. Now replace this 20-digits ID with the one you saved in step 3 and press enter to load this new page.
  7. If you don't have any cited paper, take this link (hope it will continue to work in the future): http://scholar.google.com/scholar?oi=bibs&hl=en&cites= and add your 20-digits ID at the end.
  8. On the page that loads, you'll see "Your search did not match any articles." Despite this fact, you have a "Create alert" link as described by batpigandme. This link will now allow you to create a citation alert for your article.

It's a bit tedious but at least it seems to work.

This works for your own papers, but not for papers by others (there will be no "create alert" link at the bottom on the left. For any random paper (including your own):

  1. Click the Save button under a search result that is pointing to the paper of interest (this adds that paper to your library)
  2. Open My Library, click on the article, and then scroll down to find "scholar articles" - that link (but not the one at the top) contains the 20 digit identifier you need - right click copy link and proceed as above (step 4 and following).
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Great workaround - in step 6 you say to replace the number with one found in step 7, do you mean 3? – batpigandme Jun 11 '13 at 9:03
Fixed, thank you! – Calimo Jun 11 '13 at 13:21
@user56273 Your edit would have deserved to be written as a full answer! – Calimo Jan 14 '14 at 11:21
Does this still work for you? When I load the page in step 8, there is no "Create Alert" link anymore for me =( – cheflo Oct 12 '15 at 14:06
I found a new way of doing this, which is working for me. See my answer for details. – cheflo Oct 12 '15 at 14:54

Google Scholar allows you to create search alerts, which don't depend on your article having already been cited. You could create search parameters for your paper and create an alert:

  • Do a search
  • Click on the Alerts icon at the top (the envelope)
  • Sign in
  • Create and name the alert

Google Scholar Search Alert

As I mentioned in my comment, Indiana University's Journal and Search Alerts page offers guidelines for creating citation alerts through a number of academic journal databases (including EBSCO, JSTOR, SAGE, SpringerLink and Web of Knowledge).

Their Have You Been Cited? guide is also useful for Web of Science and Web of Knowledge citations.

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Unfortunately this will create an alert on the search query (new articles matching your search criteria), not on the citations of the article you queried. – Calimo Jun 11 '13 at 8:00
@Calimo depending on the format of references in your field (and how common your last name is) you could look for the exact words for an inline citation – batpigandme Jun 11 '13 at 8:39
This is very likely to be different in each journals, especially when your paper applies to a broad range of fields. At least I couldn't come up with anything working (even the title of the article is sometimes not part of the reference). – Calimo Jun 11 '13 at 8:54
@Calimo Word. That's gotta be some paper! At least in that case I'm sure it'll be cited soon enough! (Alternatively- grad students make excellent human citation alerts... kidding, sort of :D ) – batpigandme Jun 11 '13 at 8:59
Well, the thing is I don't want to miss citations just because they were in a different format. There is really no standard format in my field (computational biology). I have really no idea where the citations could pop up, and they might be from something quite unrelated, who knows? I just don't want to take the risk. – Calimo Jun 12 '13 at 15:57

Short version

Replace the pound signs in the following URL with the cluster number of the article of interest https://scholar.google.com/scholar_alerts?view_op=create_alert_options&hl=en&alert_params=hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D2005%26cites%3D####################%26scipsc%3D.

Long version

None of the other couple of answers worked for me, so I found a new way of doing this. It involves finding the cluster number of your article, as described by @Calimo in the other answer and then modifying the alert URL of an already created alert.

  1. Click the Save button under a search result that is pointing to the paper of interest (this adds that paper to your library)

  2. Open My Library, click on the article, and then scroll down to find "scholar articles" - that link (but not the one at the top) contains the 20 digit identifier you need. Copy this link and paste in into a text editor. The number after cluster= is the one you want.

  3. Search for an article that you know has citations and click "Cited by".

  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the first page where there is a little mail icon that says "Create alert". Right click and copy this URL and paste it into your text editor.

  5. In the alert URL, replace the number that comes after cites%3D, with the cluster number from your article of interest.

  6. Copy and paste this new URL into your browser and a page will appear asking if you want to create an alert for this article.

While it seems like the final URL always follows the same format, I outlined the entire process in case that URL would change in the future.


Step 2 URL


Step 4 URL


Final Alert URL


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