A citation search, which identifies how many subsequent papers have cited a particular research paper, may often identify important contributions to a scientific field. SLAC's HEP database keeps track of citations to articles in high energy physics. If you know the exact reference of an article, it is easy to find via the web how many citations the article has in the HEP database.
Have you ever wondered which papers have the most citations in the SPIRES-HEP database? If so, this document may help you. It points to two lists.
SPIRES database system at SLAC is a treasure-chest of information. The most popular database is HEP, a joint project of SLAC and DESY libraries. HEP contains almost 300,000 entries with bibliographic data on articles, preprints, and bulletin-board papers in high-energy physics. HEP also has pointers to postscript versions of several thousand articles in SLAC's bulletin-board depository and other postscript depositories worldwide.
Since 1974, HEP also tracks the number of times a published high-energy physics article is cited by later works. The citations are collected from preprints received by SLAC library. The library receives between 8,000 and 10,000 preprints yearly, and each of the preprints is a potential source of many citations. Note that works cited by journal articles which never appeared as preprints are not registered in HEP. See also a further note on the collection of citations in the concluding paragraph.
Here is a list of the top 40 articles with the most citations from January 1, 1992 to August 15, 1994. These have had the most influence to the HEP field in recent years. The first two places on the list are firmly kept by the two editions (1992 and 1990) of the Review of Particle Properties - a tribute to the authors of the Review and to all the experimental physicists whose works were used in the compilation. The remaining positions are almost equally divided between phenomenology and pure-theory papers.
The list of 'All-Time Favorites' contains the top-cited 40 articles from the past two decades and reads like a Who's Who in high-energy physics. Seven Nobel-prize winners made it to the list. Steven Weinberg's article Model of Leptons is by far the most popular work in high-energy physics. The most fruitful period in this field, according to the list, were early seventies: fifteen articles from the list were published in just two years, 1973 and 1974. It is interesting to note that fourteen 'all-time' favorites are also listed among the most popular in recent years (see above). Older papers which are twice-listed are truly 'evergreens'.
In earlier years, only citations of published journal articles were collected from preprints received by SLAC library. HEP now also collects citations of bulletin-board papers. When (and if) a bulletin-board paper is published, citations from the publication phase get added to the citations from the bulletin-board phase.