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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Refining Results by Date, Peer Review and Document Type

Getting Manageable, Relevant Search Results

Often, when you search, you will want to refine or limit your results. That is to say, you will want to eliminate certain kinds of search results from your list that are not useful to your research.

It is usually helpful to begin by using a broad search phrase that encompasses your topic to see what kinds of results that initial search yields. Once you have seen all possible results, you can begin to refine them using a few different features found in most library databases, either within the Search Results list itself, or on the Advanced Search screen. The examples below show the process using the Search Results screen from OneSearch (EBSCOhost).

Screenshot 1: Search phrase "complex ptsd" yields 5,136 results (highlighted in yellow), which is an unmanageable number. In the following steps, limiters will be applied to reduce that number to something manageable and relevant.

Screenshot of the OneSearch search results page. We have searched for "complex ptsd." The page is displaying 1 through 50 of 5136 search results. In the list, the database displays the title, authors, and other information for each item. To the left there is a Refine Results column. The second box in that column is Limit To, and that is where we're going to do our work here.

Limiting by Publication Date

Limiting by date means telling the database you want only items that were published within a certain range of years. This can be useful if your assignment requires the most current research available, or if your topic is historical in nature and you wish to find what was written about it at the time it was occurring.

Screenshot 2: On the left, under Refine Results, you will see the Limit To features. Notice the Publication Date range (highlighted by a red square). You can enter any beginning and ending year, and the database will remove all the search results that were not published in that range. Adding the beginning year 2010 and ending year 2014 reduces the results from 5,136 to 2,498 (highlighted in yellow). 

We are still in the search results list, but in that Limit To box in the Refine Results column, we have changed the publication date range to 2010 to 2014. There are now only 2498 search results left.

Limiting to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed)

Limiting to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals means telling the database you want only items that have been through a peer review or editorial review process. These are often the best sources for scholarly research, and many times your instructors will require that you use these exclusively.

Screenshot 3: On the left, under Refine Results, you will see the Limit To features. Notice the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals limiter (highlighted by a red square). By placing a check in that check box, you are telling the database to remove all search results that were not published in scholarly or peer-reviewed journals (e.g., magazine and newspaper articles). This further reduces the results from 2,498 to 1,596 (highlighted in yellow).

We are still in the same search results page, but in the Refine Results column, in the Limit To box, we have put a check in the box for "scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals. We are down to 1596 search results.

Limiting by Document Type

 Many of our databases, especially OneSearch, which searches all the library's text resources, contain content of many different document types:

  • scholarly articles
  • magazine articles
  • newspaper articles
  • book, film and music reviews
  • case studies
  • and many more.

Limiting by Document Type tells the database exactly what type of source you wish to see in your results list, whether that means scholarly article, case studies, ebooks, or something else.

Note: Not all items published in peer-reviewed journals have been peer reviewed (e.g. editorials, book reviews), though the research articles in them will have been. Using the limit by Document Type feature, after using the limit to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals features will remove those unwanted results.

Screenshot 4: On the left, under Refine Results, you will see the Source Types limiter (highlighted by a red square). Placing a check in the check box next to the source type you desire tells the database to eliminate all other results.

This is a screenshot of our original search results list for the search "complex ptsd". We are viewing 1 through 50 of 5,136 search results. In the Refine Results column on the left, the third box down, is the Source Type limiter.

Screenshot 5: If you click Show More, in the screenshot above, you would see the following full list of source types. Note: Different databases have different specializations by subject, which means that each database will contain different source types. The screenshot below shows the source types listed in OneSearch (EBSCOhost).

This is a screenshot of the box that pops up when you click "Show more" in the Source Types box. It is a list of document types, like Books, eBooks, Magazines, News, Reviews, Electronic Resources, Primary Source Documents, Dissertations/Theses, Reports, Conference Materials, Videos, etc., with check-boxes. It also has a Hit Count for each document type. For example, there are 796 eBooks for this search, and 129 News. At the bottom there is a button for Update and a button for Cancel.

Screenshot 6: Placing a check in the check box next to eBooks further reduces the results from 1,596 to 796 (highlighted in yellow), all of them ebooks. Since this is still a rather large number of results, this is the point at which you should begin adding additional concepts to your search phrase to narrow your topic and list of results to something specific, relevant and manageable.

Screenshot of the search results list now that I clicked off eBooks under Source Type. There are now 796 search results, and all of them are eBooks.

Note: You may have noticed the Full Text limiter in the screenshots above. Placing a check in that check box tells the database to remove any search results that do not have full text available in this database. Be aware that the full text may be available in a different database via a link from this database and, if you limit to Full Text in this database, you will not see those options. Use this feature cautiously.

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Disability Services by emailing them at  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website