Skip to Main Content
Research Guides Homepage

Academic Search Complete

So you've done a search with keywords connected with Boolean operators, perhaps limited your results or tried some advanced search techniques, and the database has given you a list of search results. What do you do now?

The five tabs at the top of this page will help you with the following topics:

  • The Search Results Page - once you've gotten a page of search results, what do you do now? This page explains the important things to notice about your search results page.
  • How Search Results are Sorted the database sorts results differently than in a Google search. Search results in the database are sorted by date. Go here for more info. 
  • Evaluating Search Results - just because you've gotten a long list of search results, doesn't mean every single result is right for you. Check out this page for tips on evaluting search results.
  • Refining Search Results - has your search returned too many results? Find out how to refine your results from your result page, without having to do a new search.‚Äč
  • Working With Articles - the database has many useful features, like automatic citations, email, print, save, and folder features. Find out how to use all of them on this page. 

So you've done a search with keywords connected with Boolean operators, perhaps limited your results or tried some advanced search techniques, and the database has given you a list of search results. What do you do now?

The first thing to pay attention to is how many results your search returned. You can find it at the top of the results list. Anything more than 100 results might be a signal that you need to refine your search some more. 

You can narrow down search results by adding keywords, setting limiters like Scholarly Journals or Publication Date, or using some of the search filters on the left hand side of the page.

Notice that search results are sorted by date: the most recently published articles are at the top. This isn't like Google, so don't just look at the first page or two of results - they're just getting older, not any less relevant. Click here for tips on how to sort through your search results. 



One of the most important thing to keep in mind when you get a list of search results is that results are sorted by date, not by relevance. 

This is different from Google search results - Google sorts results by relevance, popularity, and who has paid to get their site to the top of search results. 

So why does this matter?

Because the database sorts its results by date, not by relevance, you could still find a good article for your research topic several pages back into your search results - the articles are only getting older, not any less relevant.

Instead of stopping on page 2 or 3, like you might with Google, you will need to go through your entire list of search results.

This means that it's very important that you get the number of search results down to a manageable number, so that you can sort through all of them.

A "manageable" number of results will be different for everyone, but no more than 100 results is a good number - you'll have a lot of choices, but it won't take too long to go through your results, reading abstracts and setting aside articles that might work for you. 

You don't have to sort your results by date, though. You can change the "Date Newest" menu and sort your results differently:



"Date Oldest" will put the oldest results at the top of the list, with results getting more recent as you go through the list.

"Author" will put results in alphabetical order according to the author's last name; this is not a particularly useful way to sort through results. Neither is sorting results by "Source," which sorts results alphabetically according to the publication title.

Many people are more comfortable when results are sorted by "Relevance," which is closest to the way Google sorts results. In practice, the relevance sort in is not entirely accurate, so librarians recommend leaving the results sorted by date to see the most recent research published on a topic first. 

So you searched the database, and ended up with a list of search results. Will every single source in that list be appropriate for your research? Probably not: just because a search result contains your keywords, doesn't automatically mean it'll be relevant to your topic. Scroll down for tips on evaluating search results.

 You do NOT need to read every source in the list!

Use the article's title and subject terms to determine if it's worth your time reading.

Let's say you're writing a paper on the effects watching television has on children, and you want to see if there is any connection to obesity. You might search with television and children and obes*  (we're using truncation to get back results with both the words "obese" and "obesity"). 

To begin, skim your results list and pay attention to the article title and subjects:


You can tell just by looking at the article titles that these are not relevant: they deal with adolescents in other countries, Korea and Turkey. 

 Here's another one you could skip:

I can tell from the title that the article is about a heart attack someone experienced, so already it's looking pretty off-topic. But when I look at the information underneath, I can also see that this is an article from People magazine about Rosie O'Donnell: definitely not related to my research topic. 

But this result looks like it might be relevant to your search topic:

The title identifies a possible effect of watching tv (adverse dietary outcomes) and age group (ages 2-6) that are relevant to the topic, and the Subject terms mention television viewing, obesity, and children specifically. I can also see that this source was published in an academic journal So it's a good bet that this article could have relevant information for your research. Open the Full Text link to open the article.


  • Make use of the articles' abstracts. 

Abstracts are short summaries or descriptions of the article's contents. Reading an abstract can be a good way to tell quickly whether or not the article is relevant to your topic.

To read an abstract from your search results, mouse over the magnifying glass to the right of the title, and the abstract will pop up:



If the pop-up window cuts off the abstract, simply click on the title of the article to read the full article from the detail page:


In the abstract above, the biggest clue that this article might be useful to support a link between television and obesity is the sentences, "Twelve studies were reviewed in which the relationship between television viewing and diet was assessed in children between teh ages of 2 and 6. All but one study reported significant relationship between television viewing time and adverse dietary outcomes."

If you want to argue that watching lots of television contributes to a poor diet, click on the Full Text link and read the artilce! If you don't see a Full Text, either limit your search to Full Text and look for a different article, or contact a librarian for interlibrary loan options.

  • Evaluate the rest of the article carefully

So you've sorted through your results list to find an article with an abstract that looks relevant to your research, and you've read the Full Text of the article. But hang on! 

There are some other things you'll want to pay attention to, as well, including:

Currency:  The article should be considered up-to-date, depending on the field. Health Sciences and Technology articles should be very recent (less than 3-5 years old). Articles of Literary Criticism, however, don't really go out of date. You can find the published date of an article right in your results list:



Authority:  The author and publication should have appropriate credentials (experience, position, education, reputation) to report authoritatively on a topic. The author's credentials usually appear on the first page of the article:


You can find out more about a publication by clicking on the Source name from the article detail page:



Once you click on the Source name, the Publication Detail page can tell you more about a source. If it is a peer-reviewed academic journal, it can be considered a very authoritative source:



Bias: The author, publication, and publisher should present information objectively, and without bias of any kind. Information presented with personal beliefs, emotion, or opinion, especially political in nature, should not be considered objective. 

Most scholarly peer-reviewed journals make it a priority to publish scientific research objectively and without bias, but magazines and newspapers may have a specific editorial slant that may affect what is published there. You may not find explicit bias in the description of the article or publication, so you'll need to use critical reading skills to analyze the author's writing for evidence of bias. 

Bias is not necessarily a bad thing, but if present, it's crucial that you are aware of it and interpret the information accordingly.

If you ever are in doubt about a source's credibility, contact a librarian.

Sometimes you run a search in the database and get way too many search results back:


This search for television and children returned over 35,000 hits!

If you're not sure why it's not so great to get over 35,000 results for one search, take a look at the How Search Results are Sorted page. 

There are a number of ways to refine your results from your search page. Perhaps the easiest will be to add another keyword specific to your topic, and search again:


By adding the keyword obesity, we've reduced results from over 35,000 to just over 1,000.

That's still too many results to sort through, so you could either add another keyword or use the ready-made refining options that run down the left side of your search results.

As you search, the limiters you set will be recorded at the top left of your results. So if you set a limiter that narrows your results list too much, simply click the blue X next to the limiter to remove it:



There are several limiter menus, so let's take them in order: 

  • Limit to
Use this option if you forgot to select the Full Text checkbox before you searched. Your results list will be updated to full text articles only, so you will be able to read the entire text of every article in the list. 
You could also use this if you forgot to select the Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals checkbox before you searched, and you want or are required to use only scholarly journals. Anything that is not a scholarly journal (like newspapers or magazines) will be taken out of your results list, and you will be left with just scholarly journals. 
It is not recommended to check References Available, unless you want to make sure every article in your search results includes a list of works cited to write that article. For more information about this option, see the Advanced Search Limiters page.
You could also use the Publication Date slider bar. Simply drag the slides on either end of the bar to change the publication date. Don't be surprised if this doesn't significantly change the number of search results, though!
You can also click on the Show More link to bring up additional limiters, such as Publication, Number of Pages, and more:
For a complete explanation of these options, see the Advanced Search Limiters page.

Once you've checked any of these boxes or moved the date sliders, your search results will update automatically.
  • Source Types
The Source Types facet is another way to refine your search, according to the type of publication you want your article to come from. The source types in your list will change with every search you do, but you will usually see academic journals, magazines, newspapers, and some others in this list. 
If you need to limit your results to scholarly sources, select the Academic Journals checkbox. Once you select one or more checkboxes, your search results will update automatically.
  • Subject: Thesaurus Term

The Subject: Thesaurus Term facet allows you to refine your search results according to database's controlled vocabulary (see the Subject Terms tab for more information).
The terms in this list will vary according to your search terms and topic. Click on the Show More link to see all Subject: Thesarus Terms in the list. If one of the subject terms here is relevant to your topic, check the box and your search results will be reset automatically to articles described with the subject thesaurus term you chose.
  • Subject

The Subject menu is similar to the Subject: Thesaurus Term menu. It offers more specific words or phrases that describe some of the articles in your results list.  Click on the Show More link to see all Subject Terms in the list.
Again, if any of these terms describe your topic closely, check the appropriate box and your results will update automatically to articles tagged with that Subject. 
There are other facets to the left of your results, including Publication, Company, Geography and NAICS / Industry code, but narrowing your results using type of publication or subject terms is probably the most effective way to refine your results.

The databases make it easy to work with articles in a variety of ways. To find your options, click on the title of any article from your results list and take a look at the Tools menu on the right side of the screen.



  • Add to Folder

The Folder feature is like a shopping cart on a retail website. You can add many articles to one folder, then go back and review them once you're done searching.

However, you must do something with the articles in your folder before you close the database - otherwise they will not be there for you the next time!

For a full explanation of the folder feature, scroll down to the Using EBSCO's Folder Feature section.


  • Print

The Print option will print out the article detail page, but will not necessarily print the complete article.

If you are viewing an article in HTML Full Text format, where the entire text of the article appears on the same screen, using this print icon will print out the complete article.

But if you are viewing an article in PDF Full Text format, you must open the PDF and use the print icon inside the PDF to print the complete article.


  • Email

This feature allows you to email articles to yourself or to others. Emailing yourself articles is convenient because the complete article will be included with the email.

If the article is HTML Full Text, the complete article will be in the body of the email. If the article is PDF Full Text, it will be included as an attachment to the email.

Emailing articles is also convenient because the database can send you the article citation with the email.

Once you click on the Email icon, select the Citation Format bubble and the citation style you're using from the drop-down menu. In this example I've chosen MLA:



  • Save

The Save icon gives you the option to save an article as an HTML file.

Like the Print option, using this Save link will save just the article detail page, not the entire article (unless you have an HTML Full Text article). If you have a PDF Full Text article, open the PDF and use the save icon within the PDF to save a copy of the article to your hard drive or flash drive.

Like the Email option, you can also choose to include the citation in the saved file by selecting the Citation Format bubble and your preferred style format:



  • Cite

The database will format citations in a variety of styles, which can save you a lot of work! After clicking on the Cite link, a small window will open. Simply scroll down to the citation style you're using and copy and paste the citation:


Always double-check citations you get from the database! Sometimes the database will make errors with the citations, so it is your responsibility to ensure the formatting, punctuation, and capitalization of the citation is correct. 


Using EBSCO's Folder Feature

  When you're searching the databases, you may not have time to open up every article, determine if it's relevant to your research, and then save, email, or print it out. In those times, the Folder feature can come in handy.

To use it, click the 'Add to Folder' icon or link. In addition to the link in the Tools menu, you can add to your folder from your results list, too. The icon is at the right of the article title:



You'll also see the Add to Folder link if you're looking at the pop-up abstract: 



In the blue ribbon at the top right of the page, you will see a Folder link. When you've saved documents to your folder, the icon will change. Click on the folder link to see everything you've saved:



Your folder contents look like this:



You must do something with the articles in the folder before you close out of the browser or switch databases! Your folder will NOT be saved until your next session. You should either email, print, or save the articles, or create a free account with MyEBSCOHost.

If you would like to create a free account with MyEBSCOHost in order to save your folder contents for your next session, use the Sign In link next to the folder and follow the directions to create a free account. 

For more information on creating an account, saving folders, and creating shared folders, see EBSCO's support guide.| Central Library: 281-476-1850 | Generation Park Campus: 281-998-6150 x8133 | North Library: 281-459-7116 | South Library: 281-998-6150 ext. 3306