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Writing 100 (Block 2020): Search Strategies - Additional

Filters & Fields

Limit the Search to a Specific Field

  • Searches, in most databases, default to searching multiple fields in the citation records and/or the full text of the article.  To create a more specific, you may wish to search for your most important terms in a specific field such as a Title field.

Sample of a searching in a specific field in Web of Science.

screenshot of a field search, limiting drones to a Title field

Narrow Results to a Specific Time Frame (before or after searching)

  • Most databases allow you to narrow to a specific time frame both before or after you search. 

Limit to Specific Types of Articles

  • If you want specfic types of scholarly journals, the database may offer the option of selecting original research articles rather than review articles.  In the field of psychology, empirical studies are considered original search articles while in medicine, clinical trials are an example of original research studies.

Filter Search Results by Relevance or Date 

  • Though many database show search results sorted by Relevance, many science databases return results from the most recent citations to the least recent citation (by Date).  If you have a lot of search results, a date sort may make your results look irrelevant.  Consider narrowing by date and then sorting by Relevance instead.

Subject Terms / Thesaurus

Some Databases Tag their Citations with Specific Terms/Phrases Known as Controlled Vocabulary

  • See PsycInfo and look for the Thesaurus.
  • See PubMed and look for MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) in the drop down menu to the left of the search box.

*Snapshot of Subjects/Controlled Vocabulary from an article citation in PsycInfo for "Music preferences and empathy: Toward predicting prosocial behavior"

Subject Headings from PsycInfo

Do these databases have Controlled Vocabulary?

More Details:  Use MeSH Database (controlled vocabulary) from the National Library of Medicine

  • Select MeSH from the search drop down menu (rather than PubMed) or use the MeSH Database link under More Resources
  • Enter the common term, e.g. nosebleed, flu, heartburn,
  • If more than one term is listed, select the desired term with a check mark
  • Or, select subheadings that match your topic interest
  • Click Add to search builder
  • Search for additional terms if desired, e.g. outbreak, causes, therapy, etc.
  • Click Add to search builder
  • Click Search PubMed


Look for Cited References and Times Cited (articles that have since cited the article)

See the Articles Networks tab for more information.

  • This information can lead you to other articles related to your topic.  Look for "Times Cited" or "Cited References" hyperlinks.
  • Google Scholar and Web of Science are known for providing "Cited By" links.

citation network screenshot with times cited and cited by info