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Scopus: Refining your search

Use this guide to help you search Scopus more effectively and to find out how to manage your search results. After reading this introductory page, click each heading in the following row of tabs:

Refining and re-sorting your search results

Re-sorting your search results: if your results appear in date order, you may want to re-sort them so that they appear in the order of highest relevance. To do these, select the appropriate option from the 'sort on' options (located just above your search results).

Retrieving too few results? Return to the search boxes by clicking the orange ‘Scopus’ logo (top left-hand corner). Consider whether any further keywords exist on your topic and if so, add these to the relevant search boxes (again entering the word or in between alternative keywords). Click Search again. If you still retrieve few results, and you have entered multiple sets of keyword, try excluding the least essential set.

Retrieving too many irrelevant results? Return to the search boxes by clicking the orange ‘Scopus’ logo (top left-hand corner). Consider whether any of your keywords are of only marginal relevance – if so, remove these and try another search. If you continue to retrieve too many irrelevant results, consider whether your topic contains a further concept that needs to appear in each search result. If so, add another search box and enter the keyword(s) associated with that concept in that new box.

Note the advice on error messages in the keywords tab in the guide.

What are Scopus's filters?

Scopus: filters

  • The filters enable you to refine your search results by subject area,type of literature, specific author, institutional affiliation and various other categories. Filter options appear in the column to the left of your search results.
  • Experiment with opening some of the options in the left-hand column by clicking on the down arrows.  Then click in the boxes next to some of the attributes listed. Finally, click the ‘limit to button' which appears at both the top and bottom of the filters column.  
  • Be cautious with keyword and subject area filters: they might not help you identify all of the search results in a specific subject/topic area. That said, if you're retrieving an unmanageable number of irrelevant results, the use of these filters can be very helpful (at least in your initial searches).

The Keyword filter

  • To view all of the keywords associated across the full range of your search results, open the 'keyword' option in the left-hand column. Keywords provide a more precise description of content than subject areas. 
  • This filter may help you refine the scope of your dissertation/thesis by alerting you to aspects of a topic that you might not have considered and possible gaps in previous research.
  • To view a fuller set of the keywords, click the view more link followed by the view all link (located to the right of the column). Then select those boxes next to keywords that are relevant to your research. Finally, click 'Limit to' to retrieve a refined set of search results.

Combining sets of search results

With complicated searches, you may find it helpful to run separate search (each on a different concept/sub-theme) and then combine the individual sets of search results. To do this, go the search history section which is located just below the search boxes on the initial search screen (to get back to this screen, click the the orange 'Scopus' icon in the left-hand corner).

Here you find a list of your searches (from your current search session) - you may need to scroll down the screen to view this list. Each search is given a corresponding #number. In the 'combine queries' box, enter the relevant #numbers that you wish to combine. Then enter one of the following in between the #numbers: AND, OR, NOT (for example, you might enter #1 AND #2). Finally, click the magnifying glass to retrieve the new set of results.

Screenshot showing how to combine sets of search results

  • AND: enter this if you want to narrow down your search results to only those that appear in each set of results that you're combining. In the above example, Scopus is being instructed to combine all of the search results on eco-friendly wellbeing with all results on governance/leadership. This produces a combined set of over 400 search results. This set also appears in the search history section.
  • OR: enter this if you want to retrieve one long list of all your search results from across all of the sets that you combined.
  • NOT: enter this if you want to exclude results that include one or more irrelevant keywords. To do this, run a search on your topic (e.g. #1) and then run a second search for just the keyword(s) that you want excluded (e.g. #2).  Then, combine the two sets of searches using NOT (e.g. #1 NOT #2).

    Be cautious: the use of NOT can too limiting - a Scopus record that includes an irrelevant keyword may also include a relevant keyword. A manual evaluation of your results may be the only way of excluding the irrelevant ones effectively, but the use of filters or a more precise set of keywords might help.