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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Choosing and Using Library Databases

This guide will help you choose and use library databases more effectively.

Too Many Results?

Narrow Your Paper's Topic

If you've simply picked a topic that's too broad, you may need to choose something more focused. See Choosing a Topic.

Add Another Search Term

Try adding more search terms to narrow down the results.

Use Limits

See Search Techniques.

Sorting Options

Web of Science sort optionsSometimes just choosing the right sort will cause the articles you want to rise to the top of the list, or will group like things together. Common options include:

  • Relevance: Usually the default, relevance ranking is determined by where your search words appear—titles count for more than abstracts, which in turn count for more than full-text matches—and how often the word appears.
  • Date: Put the newest or oldest stuff on top

Too Few Results?

Broaden Your Paper's Topic

And if you've picked a topic that's too narrow, you may need to expand the scope of your paper. See Choosing a Topic.

Remove Limits and/or Search Terms

See Search Techniques and Search Terms.

If the database uses Boolean operators, try combining terms with OR instead of AND.

Follow the Bibliographic Links

As long as you find one good scholarly article or book, you can look up the works cited in the footnotes or bibliography to find the sources it's based on.

You can also follow citations forward in time by looking up who cited the work you have. Web of Science and Google Scholar have cited reference searches.