Evaluating your search results
The search process is rarely linear but rather tends to be iterative. You may have to search several library tools such as FindIt@Flinders, Library Research Databases and maybe Google to complete a research task. Experienced searchers tend to evaluate the results after each search in case adjustments to the strategy is required. Pay attention to the:
- number of records returned
- position and frequency of keywords
- inclusion of unintended results
- type of material
- level of writing - is it too complex/ not academic?
Things to consider when evaluating a search
Too many results
- Use AND operators in your search to link key concepts
- Use NOT operators to remove any common, but irrelevant, terms from your search.
- Use of facets or search limits to limit the scope of the results returned. For example, most databases allow you to limit results to those published within a timeframe you set. Check the help section of the specific database for tips.
Too few results
- Use OR operators to link synonyms for keywords.
- Think of more synonyms for your keywords.
- Use truncation and wildcards to include results with alternative word endings or spellings.
- Check the spelling of your keywords.
- There may just be very little published on your given topic.
Once you have a manageable list of search results, it is important to evaluate them to ensure you have the most relevant and useful resources for your assignment: just because you get a hit doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be useful.