In doing research, it's normal not to find everything you need immediately in your first search. Reviewing your search results can give you clues on how to refine and revise your searches.
Looking at the result set:
Viewing the full records of some of the more relevant items in your result set:
If your search returns too many answers, try some of these techniques:
- Add more concepts or subject terms using AND to combine them:
serotonin and inhibitor and depression
- Search for terms in a specific field:
serotonin in title depression in MeSH major topic
- Limit your search results by:
language, publication date, document type, etc.
(Options vary from database to database.)
It's generally preferable to refine your search by adding in more concepts or limitations that should apply to all your results, if possible, rather than excluding terms by using NOT.
If your search doesn't return enough relevant answers, try some of these techniques:
- Add synonyms or related terms using OR to combine them:
serotonin or dopamine or neurotransmitter
- Use truncation (symbols vary from database to database):
signal* instead of signaling
- Use the thesaurus, if the database has one, to identify other related terms or broader terms to search.
- Search on a relevant subject heading or alternate subject terms that you've located in a record in your search results.
- Remove any unnecessary limits you've set.
- Use the "Find related" or "Find similar" search button if the database has one.
Review articles can help you start your research. Because they provide an overview or summary of significant research in a particular subject area, they are useful as introductions to a new area or as updates to a more familiar one.
Review articles are not part of the primary literature, because they do not report original research. They can lead you to reports in the primary literature, however.
Use review articles to:
Searching for review articles is done in various ways, depending on the database:
If you know the name of an active or preeminent researcher in your area of interest, try searching for articles by that author.
Be alert to the form of the name you search:
Databases do not all use the same format for displaying and searching author names, so look for examples or search tips in your database.
Authors do not always use the same form of their name. For example, they may not always use a middle initial, so you may need to search for more than one form of their name.
Of course, different authors may have the same set of initials or even name, so you may need to refine your search using subject terms or institution name.
ORCID numbers are unique identifiers for authors. If an author has registered with ORCID and the database includes ORCID numbers in its records, you can search and use ORCID numbers to identify articles by a particular author.
Following links between articles that cite each other can be a useful way of expanding your awareness of relevant articles. An article citing another one implies a subject connection between the two.
Many databases make it easy to identify these connections by including links in the full record for an article:
The Web of Science database was designed specifically to enable citation searching to find these connections. Choose Cited Reference search after connecting to the database. You can then search terms as a Cited Author, Cited Work (cited article), or Cited Year.