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Finding books & journals: Refine your search

"Tweaking your results is always a good use of time. The more time you spend refining your search terms and operators, the more appropriate your results will be"

Fiona Ware, Library Skills Adviser

The search strategy is an iterative process. You always need to tweak your search. You may need to broaden your search when you get a limited set of results or limit your search with specifications when you have too many to trawl.

You may also want to set inclusion and exclusion criteria as a way of refining your search results. You might want to use limiters such as date ranges, language or materials type (such as scholarly journals etc).

This page shows some of the ways to refine your search.


Too few results

If your search is resulting in too few results, consider the following:

  • Search for even more synonyms or related terms - try looking at relevant articles to identify further terms or the thesaurus and subject index.
  • Search on a broader topic rather than a specific term, for example, insects instead of spiders.
  • Use truncation to increase the number of results, for example, educat* would find education, educational, educating etc.

Too many results

If your search is resulting in too few results, consider the following:

  • Combine even more keywords, for example, add keywords for an additional concept.
  • Limit the date range to the last 3, 5 or 10 years. 
  • Narrow some of your search terms to specific search fields such as title and abstract only.
  • Limit to English language only.
  • Limit by type of material, for example, only peer-reviewed journal articles.
  • Use proximity searching to focus and increase relevancy.