Database: Assessing Search Results

click to view the Reading Citations InteractiveAfter searching a database using your search strategy you should get a list of results. It is important to evaluate them at two levels:

    Evaluate the result list as a whole
  • Are there too many results or not enough?
  • Are the results on your topic?
  • Are they from the right types of sources?
    Evaluate the individual results
  • How reliable is the author?
  • What is the thesis statement or research question?
  • How well is the thesis supported?
  • What is missing from the discussion?

Evaluating individual source is covered next. First, we will concentrate on evaluating your result list.

Too Few Results!?! Too Many Results !?!

    click to view the Too Few, too Many Results Presentation
  • Try different keywords. Your original keywords may be too narrow or too broad.
  • Search title or abstract fields to narrow your search, or search the full text to find hidden gems.
  • Use subject terms to focus on only the most relevant articles.
  • Expand or limit the date range you are searching.
  • Search another database. Each database you try may have only a few articles on your subject.
  • Ask a Librarian.

Results are Not on My Topic!?!

click to view the Peer-reviewed Articles and How to Find Them
  • Most databases automatically sort your results by date so the most recent results are first. Change the "Sort by Date" to "Sort by Relevance".
  • Try different keywords. You may need more specific keywords.
  • Change the field you are searching. Search title or abstract fields to narrow your search. Find the proper subject terms (PDF) and use them to focus on only the most relevant articles.
  • Search another database. You may need a database that is specific to your field.
  • Ask a Librarian.

Results are Not From the Right Type of Sources!?!

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