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Literature Searching: Evaluating your Results

Refining your Search

You may find that you need to amend your search depending on the number and quality of the references you retrieve the first time around.

Skim-read the titles and abstracts of the articles your initial search has retrieved to see what authors are saying about your topic.  Are there any terms you haven't thought of?

Too many results?

You may need to narrow your search.  You can do this by:

  • Adding limits, for example:
    • limiting by date - when was the most relevant information on your topic published?  After a certain date?
    • limiting to references published in English
    • limiting by type of material such as peer-reviewed to ensure you are retrieving quality results
  • Using exact phrase searching to increase relevance for example:
    • enclosing "fear of falling" in quotes will retrieve results containing that exact phrase only

Too few results?

You may need to broaden your search.  You can do this by:

  • removing any limits
  • using truncation if you have not already done so to ensure you capture any plurals or alternative spellings, for example:
    • searching for fall* to find fall or falls or falling
    • (click on the Search Tips tab for more hints)


  • including any additional terms that you can think of or terms that your initial search has highlighted.  In our example search, "postural control" is an example of a possible additional term that might be relevant.

Skills for Study

Skills for Study is an excellent self-directed learning tool - it can help you develop the study skills you require to succeed at university. You can access this online resource anytime, anywhere and start to build up a skill set that will help you make the most of your studies.
The following modules are available:
  • Getting ready for academic study: get a head start on your first year at university
  • Referencing and understanding plagiarism: get a deep understanding of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.  Please check that you are using the correct referencing style (either BU Harvard or APA depending on your course of study) when you write your own references, see the LibGuide on Referencing and EndNote for further information on referencing styles.
  • Critical thinking skills: question assumptions, evaluate the reliability of sources and evidence and compare propositions
  • Writing skills: advice on writing in an academic style suitable for assignments, and practical guidance on how to structure ideas and improve written work.

    Skills4StudyCampus access is via Moodle.

Critical Thinking

Analyse This!
Produced by Learn Higher this is a free online tutorial which helps students learn how to analyse research data

Glossary from Bandolier glossary
This glossary contains definitions for the 'jargon' words often used in health related research


TLAP Care and Support Jargon Buster - A-Z directory of plain English definitions of the most commonly used words and phrases in health and social care.