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Find Articles: Search: Narrow & Broaden

Find subject-appropriate databases, learn how to search effectively within databases, and access the full text of articles.

3. Search: Narrow & Broaden

These strategies can be applied to most research databases, as many have similar interfaces and features. However, you may need to adapt your search somewhat depending on the database you are using. 

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Revising the search

Sometimes searches retrieve too many results, making it difficult to pick out the relevant articles. If you have retrieved too many articles, try narrowing your search with fields and limiters. (You can broaden your search by removing limiters). 

If you find a particularly relevant article, take a look at the subjects that have been assigned to it. They may give you ideas for revising your search terms. 

Fields

One way to narrow your search is to use specific fields

Common database fields include:

  - Author

  - Article title

  - Abstract (the summary of the article)

  - Publication title (sometimes called "Journal Title" or "Source")

  - Subject

You could search for articles written by a specific person (for example: Feynman Richard) or within a specific publication (for example: Physics Today).    

Search within a specific field:

Image of dropdown search fields

In the example to the right, only articles with television in the article title will be retrieved.

This narrowing method helps to eliminate articles that mention "television," but do not focus on it. 

Using the "article title" field:

Image of a search for the term television with article title selected from the dropdown field

Example of a retrieved article:

Screenshot of an article citation with the word television highlighted

Limiters

Different database have different options for limiting the search. Here are three common limiters:

Date: Limit your search to a specific date range. For example, if you want more current articles, you might limit your search to articles published after 2005.  

Scholarly/Peer Reviewed: Journals in which all articles are reviewed by experts in the field before publication to ensure that the research is high quality. [More on peer review]

Full Text: Selecting this limiter will ensure that all of your results link directly to the full text of the article. However, be careful when using this limiter. You will miss out on articles whose full text is available through other UOIT databases. For more information, go to: 4. Find Full Text.

Example of limiting/refining options:

Image of Showing Facets to Refine a Search to Peer-Reviewed Publications

(Image: Academic Search Premier database)

Subjects

While "keywords" generally refer to any words associated with an article, "subjects" are carefully chosen. Because one author may use the term "advertising," another "marketing," and so on, subjects are an attempt to find a common term that can describe similar articles.

If you find a relevant article, check the assigned subjects. You may find useful terms that you had not previously thought to include in your search.

A search can be broadened by adding new terms with OR:

advertising OR marketing OR persuasion

It could also be narrowed by replacing a general term with a more specific term:

"food marketing" instead of advertising

Image of a article title and details, highlighting the subject terms for the article

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NEXT Next button 4. Find Full Text

Definitions

Peer review: A peer reviewed article is one that has been reviewed by professionals or scholars in the field prior to publication, establishing the credibility of the information.

There are two main ways to find peer reviewed articles.

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  • When searching in a database, check to see if there is a "peer reviewed" box that you can select. If there is, you can limit your results to peer reviewed journals only.
  • If you are not sure whether a journal is peer reviewed, check its website. If the journal has a policy about peer review, there will likely be a statement on the website.

More on peer review:

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