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Information searching

Evaluating the search results

Evaluate whether the search results are useful, do they fill your information need? Are they relevant to your search topic? Relevance can be evaluated by examining the heading, abstract, year of publication and subject terms. Consider also if the search results are reliable, objective, up-to-date, accurate or scientific.

If you are not satisfied with the search results, broaden or limit your search in different ways. Utilize, for example, the narrowing options in databases. Return also to previous stages of the process of information searching to create a new search statement.

Searching for information can be frustrating, and the process does not always end with finding perfect sources, but with each new search you become a better searcher!

Broadening or limiting the search

If your search generates too few results or no results at all:

  • Did you spell your search terms correctly?
  • Check your search terms: are they too many or too precise? Consider synonyms and broader terms, if you want to broaden your search.
  • Are you writing your search terms in the language of the database? A large part of the texts in international databases is written in English, which means that you should write your search terms in English as well.
  • Check your technique: Are you combining your search terms too narrowly using AND or NOT? Would it help to truncate your search terms?
  • Are you using the right information source for your search? Try extending your search to other information sources.

If your search generates too many results:

  • Check your search terms: Are they too broad and general? Use more narrow and more precise terms to narrow your search.
  • Many databases will give you the option to limit your results by language, country, time etc. When searching international article databases, limit by full text (searches only for articles available in full text) and peer reviewed/scholarly journals (limits the search to scientic journals which are peer-reviewed).
  • Use the search fields to make your search more precise by using headings, abstracts, and subject terms
  • Check your technique: Have you used the correct operators to combine your search terms? AND narrows the search more than OR. Have you put the truncation symbol in the right spot?


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