Scopus quick tips: Phrase searching

For those of you that don’t already know, Scopus is an expertly curated abstract and citation database combined with enriched data and linked scholarly literature across a wide variety of disciplines. In short, it’s a great resource for study and research providing quick access to verifiable data sources.

However, to get the information that you need from Scopus requires the use of accurate search strategies and methods in addition to your standard Boolean operators of OR, AND, NOT.

To demonstrate, when running a simple search for the words green AND energy (note the use of the Boolean AND) within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns an enormous 112,080 document results. In response to such a large return, phrase searching can be a useful strategy for narrowing results down in the first instance; although, the type of phrase search that you choose is also important.

When phrase searching you can return loose/approximate results or exact results depending upon the use of specific punctuation, which can dramatically alter the number of records revealed in the database. For example, when wrapping the phrase “green energy” in double quotation marks and searching within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns 7,131 document results – this is a loose phrase search. Conversely, when wrapping the phrase {green energy} in braces (curly brackets) and searching within Abstract title, Abstract, Keywords, Scopus returns 6,596 document results – this is an exact phrase search.

Immediately, we can see that the exact phrase search returns around 500 fewer results. The distinction is far greater, however, if green-energy is hyphenated and the same searches are performed. Here, the loose phrase search in double quotation marks returns the same number of results as with our original search, 7,131, effectively ignoring the hyphen and searching for documents where green energy appear together. In contrast, the exact phrase search in braces finds only results with the hyphen and this time returns only 132 results.

This is just one brief example of how using simple search strategies can alter the number and range of results that can be retrieved in Scopus. Now, log in to Scopus via Library Search and have a go at widening, or narrowing, your search horizons.

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