Answered By: Berkeley College Library
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2022     Views: 21576

There are a variety of ways to narrow down your search results in a library database. The two most direct ways are to focus your search with more specific keywords and/or to limit by various criteria before or after searching.

Focus your search with more specific keywords

  • ​The more specific you are with your search terms, the more relevant your results will be. 
    • For example: 

Searching for "Starbucks" will return thousands of articles about the company. To narrow your search, think of a specific thing you want to know about Starbucks.

Let's say you want to know more about Starbucks' customer service. Searching for Starbucks AND "Customer Service" (use the whole thing, quotation marks and all) will return results about Customer Service in relation to Starbucks.

The important things to note are that:

  • using the word AND will make sure that the database knows that you want both keywords to be present in the article.
  • using quotation marks " " transforms multiple words into one whole keyword, so it's searched as a phrase, not individual words:
    Customer Service = 2 words searched
    "Customer Service" = 1 keyword, searched together
  • You can also use more focused keywords. Try using alternative keywords (synonyms) that mean the same thing or relate to the same topic. They may lead you to more relevant keywords or better results. 

For example, search Alzheimer's Disease as well as Dementia. Dementia is a more general term that refers to the symptoms associated with Alzheimer's Disease and similar conditions. Each keyword will give you different results that relate to the same topic, so you can see which are the most helpful. 

Different Keyword:

No Quotations:



Limit by various criteria or filters before and after searching

After performing a search, look for various limiters that you can refine your results by. The most important ones are Full-text (always check that box) and Publication Date, to restrict the results to the last 5 or 10 years. Otherwise you can get articles from 30 years ago. 

Popular limiters include:

  • Full Text
  • Peer Reviewed
  • Scholarly Journals
  • Publication Date Range
  • Source Type
  • Publication Title
  • Document Type
  • Subject
  • Location
  • Language

​As you limit by each criteria, your results will be narrowed down to meet your specified requirements, and there will be fewer articles. Note: you will need to reset your filters if you search on new keywords.

You can also use the Advanced Search to limit by certain criteria at the very start of your search. 

This is what the filters look like in ProQuest. Clicking on the down arrow [upside down caret ^] in ProQuest will allow you to view the options for each filter:

ProQuest Limit menu screenshot

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