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Physical Sciences: Web of Science

Getting the most out of Web of Science

Web of Science is a single platform which gives you access to a wide collection of databases in a single search. Owned by Clarivate Analytics its core collection comprises materials from the sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities with access to more than 20,000 journals, 250,000 conference proceedings and more than 100,000 book chapters. This page contains information on how to use some of the key features in Web of Science.

What can I find in Web of Science?

The databases in Web of Science focus on scholarly, peer reviewed research. It covers a range of subject areas, making it a great resource for interdisciplinary research. As well as access to materials, the database offers citation information so you can build a picture of the literature as well as a growing collection of datasets.

Material is evaluated for inclusion by a team of specialists who assess all submissions to ensure that it adheres to high standards. You can read more about the selection process in this online guide. However, as with all information you use in your research it is important to critically evaluate the individual source. You can find out more information about how to do this in our Literature Search guide.

Using Web of Science

Where can I find Web of Science?

The best way to access Web of Science is through the direct link below. This ensures that you are recognised as coming from the University of Cambridge and prompted to log-in with your Raven credentials

Do I need an account?

You will need to log-in to the database using your Raven password in order to access the content. You can also set up an individual user account within Web of Science. This is optional but it will allow you to use some of the more advanced features such as saving searches, setting alerts and creating a customised dashboard. You can do this using the Register button on any Web of Science page. Publons, the peer review recognition site, is now affiliated to Web of Science so you may wish to link your accounts if you have them.

Basic search

Screenshot of the Web of Science basic search interface


To find documents you use the basic search on the Web of Science homepage to start your search. By default, Web of Science will search the Core Collection of databases but you can change this to cover either a specific database or all content using the arrow next to the database name.

There are three main categories of material which you can search:

  • Documents will search for material in the database e.g. journal articles or conference proceedings.
  • Cited references allows you to search for material that has cited a particular output.
  • Structure performs a search for matching chemical structures within the database. 

The default option is to search all fields within a category. You can change this to search any number of fields such as author, title, year and so on. You can add additional search parameters by selecting the Add row option. These additional parameters use the Boolean AND, OR and NOT operators to create a search. AND finds both terms, OR finds either term and NOT excludes a term from your search. 

Advanced search

Screenshot of the Web of Science advanced search interface.

The Advanced Search query builder in Web of Science can be used to create complex search strings to find specific information. Web of Science will save these searches during a session so you can combine them for even more targeted results.

This method of searching can be quite complex so if you are new to using databases it is better to use the basic search option and add criteria. You can find out more about using the query builder on the Web of Science help pages.

Searching for authors

The Researchers tab can be used to find individuals by name, organisation or identifier. This is particularly useful if you want to explore the citation record of an individual.

Screenshot of the Web of Science Researcher search tab

To search for an author you can enter their information on the tab. You can switch between name, organisation and identifier search using the drop-down arrow in the main search box. If searching by name you can add different variations which someone may have published under, for example their initials and their full name or after a name change.

The results page will offer a list of matching authors. Web of Science creates author profiles automatically based on information in its databases so you may find some authors have multiple records. Any author matches displaying a green tick next to the name have been verified by the author themselves. Basic author profiles offer information on affiliation, the number of documents in the database, research topics and active years. If they have a Publons account you will also be able to see any registered peer review activity. Selecting a name will take you through to the full author profile which displays a list of publications together with citation and other metric information. When using the researcher search remember that while Web of Science contains a lot of material it is not comprehensive so only the results indexed in Web of Science databses will appear.

Citation searching

There are two ways to perform a citation search on Web of Science.

Screenshot of the Web of Science Citation Search interface.

All article pages will display citation information if it is present in any of the databases covered by Web of Science. This includes information on the total number of citations found, the collections they are cited in and some information about their context. This is a useful feature if you want to explore the wider literature or look at research which cites and builds upon what you are reading. If you have a Web of Science account you will be able to set a citation alert in order to be notified whenever a new item citing the current one appears in the database. 

You can also use the Cited References search in the Documents tab on the main search page to find items which cite a particular work. Enter details such as the author, the name of the work and the date and then select Search. This will display a list of all items within Web of Science which cite the item you have searched for. You can combine search terms using AND, OR and NOT or even search for items which have cited particular journal volumes or page ranges. Simply use the drop-down menu in each saerch box to specify what you would like to find.

When using citation counts for analysis it is important to remember that metrics are only one method of assessing research impact. The University of Cambridge is a signatory of DORA (San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment) which promises to judge research on its own metis, not just where and how often it has been cited. Tou can read more about responsible metrics on our Research Support Hub.

Enhanced features

There are a number of ways that using Web of Science can help you with your research:

Once you have created a (free) Web of Science account you can set alerts for searches, authors and individual documents of interest to your research. This means you will get an email alert when new content matching your criteria appear in any Web of Science database, saving you time running manual searches.

You can export your results in a number of formats including directly to reference managers such as Zotero and Mendeley. This makes it easier to keep track of the information you find and use it in your research. Advice on using different research management systems can be found on our Study Skills Hub.

To export details to a reference manager select the button and select the appropriate format for your export.

In addition to viewing the profile of other authors you may want to create or claim your own Researcher Profile on Web of Science as part of your online presence. This will allow you to track your citations, your peer reviews and your journal editing work in one place. It will also mean that you can correct any errors where authorship has been wrongly assigned. Like other tools of this type, Web of Science also assigns an individual identifier to any account as well as local metrics based on its information.

Need some help?

Want to know more about how you can use Web of Science to enhance your research? We offer regular training sessions which can be booked via our training page. You can also book a consultation with our Research Support Librarian for 1-2-1 help and support with your search.

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