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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 this, select the option from the 'sort by' options  (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. If the problem remains, 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 the problem remains, 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 the new box.

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

What are Scopus's filters?

  • To the left of your search results, there are filters that enable you to refine your search results by various categories including subject area, document type, specific author and institutional affiliation.
  • To open a filter's options, click on the relevant down arrow. Then click in the boxes next to some of the attributes listed. Finally, click the ‘limit to button' which will pop up just below the filter.
  • Be cautious with keyword and subject area filters: they might not help you identify all of the search results on a specific topic/subject. However, if you're retrieving an unmanageable number of irrelevant results, these filters can be 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 or thes 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 show more link. Then select those boxes next to keywords that are relevant to your research. 

Combining sets of search results

With complicated searches, you may find it helpful to run a separate search for each "separate" concept within the overall theme of your research question, and then combine the individual sets of search results. To do this, click the top left orange 'Scopus' icon to return to the Scopus 'homepage'. Here you'll find a list of your searches (from your current search session).

Click the boxes next to those searches you wish to combine. Each search has a corresponding number which then appears in a 'combine queries' box that will appear just above the list. This will default to combining your searches with AND but you can change this setting as relevant as follows:

  • AND: narrows down your search results so that each individual result relates to all the concepts/sets that you're combining (rather than just one concept). In the above example, each result will relate to both wellbeing AND governance. 
  • OR: broadens your search results by listing every single result that appears in either one or more of the original sets that you're combining.
  • NOT: excludes 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.