Library Skip to Main Content

Research Skills Tutorial

Getting Manageable, Relevant Search Results

Often, you will want to refine or limit your results to eliminate results 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 the Library Search.

The search phrase "deep space exploration" yields 121,273 results, which is an unmanageable number. In the following steps, limiters will be applied to reduce that number to something more manageable and relevant.

Limiting by Publication Date

By adding a date range in the publication date facet, you will refine your results to only items published within that timeframe. This is especially 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.

In this example, by limiting the publication date to only items published between 2016-2020, we have refined the results from 121,273 to 41,798 items. 

Limiting to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed)

Limiting to Peer-reviewed journals selects 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.

By checking the "Peer-reviewed journals" box, you are removing 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 41,798 to 28,326. 

Limiting by Document Type

 Many of our databases, especially the Library Search, which searches all the library's resources, contain content of many different material types:

Limiting by Material Type tells the database exactly what type of source you wish to see in your results list, whether that means articles, books, reports, etc. 

On the left, under "Refine your results," you will see the Material Types limiter. Placing a check in the check box next to the source type you desire tells the database to only display results of that type. In the "deep space exploration" example, these are the types available. 


After adding these limiters, there are still many results--28,086 to be exact. At this point, you would likely want to add another keyword to further refine your topic. 


We can add another concept to the search. Maybe you are interested in radiation exposure during deep space exploration. By adding another search term along with the previous filters, we have further reduced the results to 3,491. 

These are still too many results to review individually. You may want to sort by date to retrieve the most current research and/or add an additional search term.

Niagara County Community College. Henrietta G. Lewis Library. 3111 Saunders Settlement Rd., Sanborn, NY 14132 | 716-614-6786