Your goal is to scan some abstracts, read 2-3 articles, and then move on. What do you do, then, if your keyword search turns up 10,000 search results? If you just need a few good articles, one strategy is to take advantage of sorting and relevance ranking features – to try to move “good” articles closer to the top of the list. A challenge is that each database defines “good” (relevance) differently, and none of them can read your mind (yet).
Google Scholar: Automatically ranks search results according to a proprietary algorithm which considers how frequently an article has been cited, where your search terms appear, and other factors. [more information]
Web of Science: Lets you sort search results by relevance, times cited, or usage count. Like PubMed, “relevance” is based on where the search terms appear and how frequently they appear. [more information]
|Resource||Content Searched||Factors Considered in Relevance Ranking||Sorting Options|
|PubMed||Titles, abstracts, author keywords, & MeSH terms – of journal articles||Location and frequency of search terms in the reference||Best Match; Publication Date: First Author; Last Author; Journal; Title|
|Google Scholar||Full text of journal articles, dissertations, books, & other scholarly publications.||Numbers of times cited; location of search terms in reference; journal; “other”.||No options. Ranking & sorting are automatic.|
|Web of Science||Titles, abstracts, & keywords of journal articles, conference abstracts, & book chapters.||Location and frequency of search terms in the reference.||Relevance; Date; Times Cited; Usage Count; First Author; Journal Title|
Search Example: The relationship of obesity to the microbiome.
Search Terms: microbiome obesity
|Resource||Interpretation of Search||Number of Results (May 2018)||Article from the Top 3 Results Ranked by Relevance (or Best Match)|
|PubMed||(microbiome OR microbiota) AND obesity||2,847||“Gut microbiota and obesity: lessons from the microbiome” – Briefings in Functional Genomics, 2013.|
|Google Scholar||microbiome AND obesity||“About 44,700”||“An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest” – Nature, 2006.|
|Web of Science||microbiome AND obesity||1,571||“The inside story” – news feature on the human microbiome – Nature, 2008.|
Still Not Finding What You Need?
What you consider “good” might not be a highly cited article or an article with your search terms in the title! Consider looking for recent review articles, articles by a known expert in the field, or contact your librarian for assistance!