Searching Tips: Limiting or Reducing Your Results

Searching Tips

The next time you Google information, try using the “+ Show options…” feature. After you have conducted a search it returns thousands or millions of results, look for a link that says “+ Show options…” A menu bar will appear on the left-hand side with options to limit your search to various mediums (videos, news, blogs, books, forums, & reviews), time periods, different views (wonder wheel, timeline, or related searches), as well as options for fewer or more shopping sites.The wonder wheel lives up to its name; it’s pretty cool. Choosing it will take you to a spider-web graph with links that allows you to choose among various subcategories of the topic. At any time you can select a hyperlink to web pages listed along the right side. For someone interested in history, the timeline option looked interesting as well.

Various databases, including library catalogs, have incorporated built-in functions to limit searches into their interfaces for many years. It has been one thing that I have faulted Google for in the past. Most searchers find it useful to utilize prompts that show how they might sift out the wheat from the chaff. Library catalogs sometimes allow users to limit their results to specific time periods, locations within the library, publishers, languages, formats, mediums, places of publication, etc.

More Tips
Many databases also offer limiting options, such as full-text articles, newspaper articles, scholarly articles, time frames, subject categories, author, title, etc. Did you know you can search more than one database at once? Within any of the EBSCOhost databases, select “Choose databases…” to find other databases that might be useful for your search (it’s a link above the basic search box). Not sure which databases will be best? Look at the little quotation balloon or look at the “Resources by Subject” pages. Each database indexes a different set of journals, newspapers, and other sources.

Of course, the old standbys for limiting a search should not be forgotten. Adding more keywords to a search and using the Boolean AND will also reduce results. A search on the ubiquitous “gun control” topic could be limited to a specific geographic or demographic population, such as Idaho or Caucasians respectively. Searches can be limited by time period with a keyword such as “nineteenth century” or “Reagan era,” for example.

It seems that many college students have not seen many of these search options, so at present it seems like a good thing to point them out, so they can benefit from using them.

This article was contributed by Spencer Jardine, from his blog Information Literacy at ISU

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