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Guide to information retrieval: Evaluating the search results

Not enough search results?

  • Look for new search terms from the search results you have retrieved.
  • Are you using the right database? Using just one database is rarely enough to meet your information need
  • Try to think of more synonyms for your search terms
  • Should you use multiple languages in your search?
  • Use a broader search term, e.g. distribution → logistics
  • Only combine search terms when it is necessary
  • Have you truncated the search terms correctly?
  • Have you spelled the search terms correctly?

Too many search results?

  • Search with subject terms instead of a full-text search.
  • Refine your search by using the fields available, e.g. the title or abstract field, when possible.
  • Combine your search terms with AND operator.
  • Check if it is possible to limit your search to information in a specific format in the database – this is often possible in international databases.
  • Refine your search by defining the desired publication year(s) or language.
  • Use a narrower search term, e.g. logistics → distribution

More similar results

After finding an interesting, it might be a good idea to check the references of the article and also similar articles (view related documents etc.,).

Citation databases (for example Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar)  in particular contain information about citing articles.

Refining the search results

In many databases it is possible to refine search results. If you get too many (irrelevant) search results, you can refine the search by choosing only specific subjects, publications from the last ten years etc..

Different options to refine results in Ebsco Academic Search Elite database: