You can start the information search by doing some preparatory queries. Hence you can try your search concepts, how common or rare they are within the database. You can collect some alternative terms from the results or you can just get a feel to the topic.
On the grounds of the first queries you can deduce what to do next in order to get better results.
The means to refine the search query are as follows:
- number of concepts (that is: number of AND-operations)
- search terms describing the concepts
- fields to be searched
- in/excluding truncation
- in/excluding phrases
If you get too many and/or irrelevant results:
- add a defining concept using the AND-operator
- if the search term appears to be too general, try to find more specific terms
- use the title and/or subject fields only
- use a phrase instead of an AND-operation
If you get too few results:
- check the possible typing errors
- remove the least significant concept
- figure out alternative and broader terms to you search concepts
- search for all fields of records
- split the phrase to an AND-operation
- use truncation
The definition of a “good” or “comprehensive” or “proper number of” results depends on the purpose of the search.
When you need a limited number of truly relevant results, you make a focused query and try to cut down the number of irrelevant publications.
A systematic search
When you like to have an extensive result containing “everything” on the topic, you’ll make a query containing all the possible alternative terms of a certain concept and all the possible combinations for them. A systematic literature review needs this kind of extensive search. The number of results can be rather large and you’ll need to read and look through the results in order to select the actually valuable publications.
Search history, Recent searches
The search history -page is a handy tool for documenting the whole search session and re-running the queries.
An example of search refining seen through search history. The search topic is: How spatial analysis can be used as a tool for siting health services.