The most effective way to begin your search is by using keywords and subjects. Once you have retrieved relevant articles, you can use citation searching to identify additional relevant sources.
Citation Searching allows you to take an aritcle and discover who influenced the author (works cited/references/notes) and to go forward in time to learn how that research influenced future works (cited by/times cited).
Each of the resources below (and many of the other research databases available through the library) provide links to the works cited and cited by lists. They may also show "related articles" which are usually selected by matching keywords or common references. In addition, Web of Science has a Cited Reference search feature in which you input the information for the article you wish to trace and it will pull up details of the works who have cited that article.
Provides International coverage of journal articles, selected web sites, and patents in the sciences and social sciences; provides citation tracking from 1996 to the present.
Interactive Tutorial: http://help.scopus.com/robo/projects/schelp/tutorials/sc_menu.html
Web of Science is the most complete and comprehensive citation tracking database with coverage from 1900 to the present. It provides thorough coverage of ~5900 major journals. Includes cited author searching. Abstracts, keywords, and additional subject categories are included and searchable from 1991+.
Video Tutorial: http://scientific.thomson.com/support/recorded-training/wos/
Google has a specialized interface for searching the journal literature called Google Scholar that provides access to peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Although it is not as standardized, thorough, or reliable as BIOSIS, Web of Science and other literature databases, Google Scholar is the simple interface that has its advantages for those who are less experienced with searching the literature.