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Basics of Information Retrieval: Evaluating search results

Too many or too few results

Not enough search results?

  • Look for new search terms from the search results you have retrieved.
  • Are you using the right database? Using just one database is rarely enough to meet your information need.
  • Try to think of more synonyms for your search terms.
  • Should you use multiple languages in your search?
  • Use a broader search term, e.g. distribution → logistics.
  • Only combine search terms when it is necessary.
  • Have you truncated the search terms correctly?
  • Have you spelled the search terms correctly?

Too many search results?

  • Search with subject terms instead of a full text search.
  • Refine your search by using the fields available, e.g. the title or abstract field, when possible.
  • Combine your search terms with AND operator.
  • Check if it is possible to limit your search for information in a specific format in the database – this is often possible in international databases.
  • Refine your search by defining the desired publication year(s) or language.
  • Use a narrower search term, e.g. logistics → distribution.

More similar results

After finding an interesting resource, it might be a good idea to check the references of the article and similar articles (view related documents etc.,).

Citation databases in particular contain information about citing articles.

Information evaluation

Some criteria for evaluating the quality of information and source criticism are listed below:

  • Reliability and objectivity
    - Is the material produced by a known agency, organization or expert? Is the information thoroughly researched, objective and reliable?
  • Feasibility
    - Can you absorb and use the information?
  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Accessibility
    - Do you need extra skills or resources to acquire material?

What is a Scholarly Journal Article? (University of Washington Libraries )

Using information, Copyright

Information resources are used for theses, essays etc. to support presented claims, or to provide challenging views that you wish to criticize. In both cases, you must remember to use appropriate references to the sources you used.