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Research Process: Refine Results

Break your topic into keyterms; map terms to subject headings; use AND/OR to combine searches. Learn the difference between peer reviewed & scholarly sources.

Narrow results under 80

The number of results should be under 80 to ensure you find relevant results, rather than just wading through unrelated items. Narrow your search by trying the following:

  • Add another term (consider another facet of your topic; add a specific demographic)
  • Add search limits: depending on the provider for the database (Ovid, EBSCOhost, ProQuest, etc.), you will have various ways to limit. To learn how to use these limits, see the guide on specific databases or providers.

Citation chasing

Use the past

  • Check the works cited by an article you already found in order to find more relevant articles.

Look to the future

  • To find articles that cite an article you found, try Google Scholar. Just search for the article you have, and then click "Cited by..." 

Expand results

Use broader or related terms - Use the database's thesaurus to help you find terms

Combine only two facets at a time - See the tab in this guide on Combining Terms

Search a different database:

  • PsycINFO is a good place to start for psychology/counseling-related topics
  • Try a database specific to your topic (see the tab Choose a Database​)

Citation chasing (see the box below for more information)

Find more subject headings

Use the database's thesaurus to find related terms. Below is an example from PsycINFO in Ovid after doing an initial search and clicking the hyperlinked term. You can select as many terms as you want. If you do not select them, they are not included in your search. 

Check boxes in the thesaurus

You can do the same thing in an EBSCOhost database. The example below is the thesaurus in SocINDEX:

check boxes in SocINDEX's thesaurus


Once you find a useful resource, click its title to find all subject headings applied to that resource. 
NOTE: In PsycINFO, after you click the title, you will need to scroll below the abstract.

  • Write down all the relevant subject headings.
  • Go back to the main search page and add the new subject headings to your search.