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What to do if you get too many or too few search results

A short summary of the techniques you can use to respond to having too many or too few search results.

What to do if you get too many or too few search results

This summarises the tools and techniques you can use to manage your search. Typically searches can be classified into three categories: 1) searches that find exactly what you need, 2) searches that find too many results and 3) searches that find too few results.  If you find too many or too few results these are the actions you can take.

Action for too many results                          

Actions for too few results

Use fewer keywords
Using too many keywords can distort your search. List your keywords in order of importance and eliminate your least important.


Add in more keywords
Using too few keywords may mean that you are missing articles. Adding in more keywords will increase the number of articles you find.


Add in another concept
For example, if prehospital and fall* finds too many results you could add in an additional concept, such as older people, to further limit your search results.

Take out your least favoured concept
List your concepts in order of importance to your search and eliminate the least important.


Use Proximity Commands adj
Consider using the Proximity command to limit the space between words e.g. tele* adj3  triage* 


Eliminate or relax Proximity Commands adj
If you are using Proximity commands relax or eliminate them e.g. use tele* AND triage* instead of tele* adj3  triage*

Use the Thesaurus
Look for terms in the Thesaurus that match your keywords.


Search for your terms free text
If you are using terms from the Thesaurus consider searching for them in Any Field or the Title and Abstract field.

Search In Field
Search for words in a specific  field, e.g. Title

Search anywhere
Search for words in more fields or Any Field


Apply Limits to your search
Manage your search results by applying limits, e.g. Date      

Eliminate or relax limits
Eliminating or relaxing  Limits e.g. remove or extend the date range.