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Guide for Nanjing Institute of Technology (NJIT) students: Improving search results

Analysing the search result

Database tools for analysing the search result (analyze results, refine results):

  • Help in evaluating list of publications in the results
  • Offer an easy opportunity to continue the search in the desired direction
  • Sort the search results according to various criteria

Before using the analysing or refining tools on your search result, make sure that your search string is correct, you are following the database intstructions and using the relevant search terms.


Some databases offer a tempting limit to full text -option.  It limits the search results to the full text documents included in the database in question. This option will leave out also those references that would provide easy access to the full text via the link or as an open access pubication.


Sort by

In general, the relevance and publication year are suggested as the order of presentation for the search results. Some databases offer also an option to organize a set of results according to the number of citations received by an article (Cited by), for example Scopus.

Document type

In many databases it is possible to limit the search results to peer reviwed publications only. Other document type limitations include for example books, conference proceedings or review articles. Example: Scopus

Publication year
Databases usually allow limiting with time of publication. Example: ProQuest.

Subject area


Many databases provide a possibility to refine the search result by broad subject categories, for example Scopus

Notice, that more specific keyword or  thesaurus term lists should not be used for limiting the search result, but rather for finding new search terms.


Focusing a search on search fields

A database is a collection of records in which information about each document is stored. Each record is composed of fields containing specific piece of that information. The fields, their names and searchability are database specific.  When you are searching, consider where your terms might be found. A search can be narrowed down by focusing it on the different fields of the record.

Common fields to focus a search on are:

  • Article title
  • Abstract
  • Key words
  • Full text

Often databases provide a default combination of for example title, abstract and keyword fields. You can choose the search field on drop down menu or use field codes in command search.


An example of a record. You can open the record by clicking the title in the search result list. When you are searching information about a specific topic, the relevant fields are usually the title, abstract and the keywords. Which fields in this example contain the word glycerolScopus 27.7.2018

Citation pearl growing strategy

With a citation pearl growing strategy, the starting point is one relevant document. The idea of this search is to find more documents similar to the one already found

  • More recent literature than the core article can be found by searching the database for those documents that cite the core document (citing documents, cited by, times cited).
  • Literature published prior to the core document can be found by studying the reference list (cited references) of the article.
  • New searches can be made with new search terms found in the core document. When looking for new search terms in the core document, it is worth taking a careful look particularly at the title, abstract and the key words used there.
  • New searches can be made with the authors' names.

Reference lists and citation databases

The reference list (bibliography) is a list containing all the references that has been cited in the text.

In citation databases the items in reference list are linked to the article references, enabling a user to see a list of publications that have cited a chosen publication.

Using referencing and citation information a researcher can keep track of the attention received by their own articles or those of competitors, keep track of the development and impact of research results or scientific theories, and establish who are the most significant researchers in their field.

Reference information received from one reference database is never complete because it contains only references from articles published by journals indexed in that database.