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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 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.

Screenshot 1: Search phrase "complex ptsd" yields 57,120 results, which is an unmanageable number. In the following steps, limiters will be applied to reduce that number to something manageable and relevant.

OneSearch results page with number of results highlighted

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 Limit Options, 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 2015 and ending year 2020 reduces the results from 57,120 to 23,577 (highlighted in yellow). 

OneSearch results page with number of results and date limit option highlighted

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 Active Filters, notice the "in 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., it removes books, magazine and newspaper articles). This further reduces the results from 23,577 to 12,955 (highlighted in yellow).

OneSearch result page with limit options

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 Limit Options, you will see the Resource 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 only display results of that type. If you click Show More, you would see a list of all available resource types. Note: Different databases have different specializations by subject, which means that each database will contain different source types.

OneSearch with Resource Type limit option highlighted

Note: You may have noticed the Expand to Non-Full Text limiter in the screenshots above. Placing a check in that check box tells the database to also show any search results that do not have full text available in this database. This can sometimes be a useful feature because OneSearch, for example, does not index everything available in the library (it may be available in a different database), and even if the library does not have access to it, your local library may have the journal article available in print (so you could then visit that library in person and photocopy the article needed).

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 Disability.Services@esc.edu.  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 http://www.esc.edu/disabilityservices.