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Doing the literature review: Advanced search in a database

Advanced search in a database

Many scholarly databases offer an Advanced search option, with search functionalities that can be very useful when you are searching for literature to include in a literature review.

An advanced search often allows you to:

  • Select specific fields to search, for example title words and keywords. Sometimes you can search fields that are not included in the basic search.
  • Combine fields to search - you can combine a search for title words with a search for keywords.
  • Use Boolean operators not available in the basic search, for example the NOT operator.
  • Use proximity operators - to make sure that the search terms are within a specified number of words of each other.

Some databases offer the advanced search as a command line search: you have to enter the field codes, operators etc. yourself. This may sound like a lot of work, but it also allows you to prepare a search query in Word or Excel and copy/paste the query in the database's search interface. This is especially handy when you want to use the same search terms in multiple databases.

The video tutorial Using the Advanced Seach Query Builder in Web of Science (1:43) gives an overview of the advanced search options in one particular database: Web of Science.

Using the advanced search - an example

In the handout Using the advanced search - an example (PDF) you can see an example of a search query using the Advanced search interface in Scopus, Sociological Abstracts (via ProQuest) and PsycINFO (via Ovid).