Fine-Tune Search Results

Narrow your search results

Once you have done your keyword search, you may find that you have too many search results to scan through. Or you may want to eliminate all the results that don’t meet certain criteria. While the various search tools each have a different “look,” they mostly have the same features. You should be able to:

  • limit by publication date – this allows you to set a start and end date for the database to search.  Limiting by date is important when you need to find the most recent articles on your topic, or articles published within a certain time period.
  • limit to scholarly/peer reviewed – this will eliminate all search results from nonscholarly publications.
  • limit to full text – this will eliminate all search results that do not include the  full text of the article. Use this one with caution, because you will be missing out on articles that are available elsewhere in full text. Options for obtaining full text will be covered in the Locate Full Text page.
  • help – a link or button, usually somewhere at the top of the page that provides detailed instructions on using all the features and functions of the search tool.

Often your first search doesn’t bring up enough relevant results. Learn to Use Your First Search Results to Improve Your Next Search.

Sometimes you get more or better results if you search with the database’s list of the words and phrases it uses for each topic. Learn to Search Using Controlled Vocabulary.

Scan your search results

For details on how to use these options in a particular search tool, find that search tool’s Help section.

  • Sort by – usually your search results are arranged in reverse chronological order (newest first), but you may be able to arrange them in other ways.
  • Page through your search results using either page numbers, back and forward arrows or both, usually located at both the top and bottom of your results list.
  • Article title is a link to more detailed article information:
    • authors, journal title, and publication information like volume, issue, date and page numbers, information you’ll need when you cite the article.
    • abstract – brief description, useful for determining whether the article is relevant.
    • persistent/permanent/stable URL – copy and paste this if you want to keep a link to the article or share it with someone else.

Save/Print/E-mail/Export your search results

  • Mark items or add them to a folder – Usually there is a check box next to the search result to add it to your marked items list. In other cases, there will be a small icon that looks like a manila folder underneath the search result.
  • Marked/saved items list/folder itself is usually at the top of the page or to the right of the search results list. When you click it, you will see a list of search results you’ve chosen. You can select any or all of them to perform a variety of actions.
  • Create an account – If you do not have your own, individual account with that particular search tool, and aren’t logged into it before you begin marking items to save, all your marked items will be lost as soon as you close your browser window or log out. Use one of the options below to keep them.
  • Inside your marked items list or folder:

Visit the Database How Tos if you are interested in learning how to use a particular search tool.

a brief course in information literacy