Students, faculty, and other researchers successfully use the ACI Scholarly Blog Index every day to find scholarly blog posts written by highly-credentialed blog authors. With over a million articles and up to 10,000 new articles added every week, ACI provides researchers with a number of ways to search its comprehensive database right from the main page. A keyword search is probably the most common type of search, but researchers can also browse or search for content by the blog’s title, author, publication date (or range), Library of Congress classification, or even institutional affiliation – for example, the university where a scholarly blogger currently works or where he or she received a given degree.

CCO Image by Peggy Marco. Pixabay.

Regardless of which method you initially choose to begin your research, the number and relevancy of the search results you receive from that search (or browse) will usually affect the usefulness of those results in your research. When you receive search results that are too broad, or when you receive too many search results, the information you need may be difficult to locate. A too-broad search often leads to either catch-all results or results with similar titles and abstract snippets. The differentiating factors between one article and another will be harder to identify, and having a ton of results to sift through in order to locate those relevant posts won’t be an effective use of your valuable research time.

On the other hand, a too-narrow search poses just as many problems for those trying to locate scholarly blog content. Even if there are more than enough relevant ACI posts for your topic, if your initial search was too limited, you may not receive enough useful results. In fact, with a too-narrow search, those articles that might be the most relevant articles for your particular research topic may not even show up in the list of results.

This post is the first of two blog posts that will assist you with this issue. In this blog post, we’ll look at the steps you can take when you’re getting too many – or too many irrelevant – search results. Next week, we’ll look at the steps you can take when you’re not getting enough.

If you’re getting too many results in your ACI search, or if your results are just too broad or irrelevant in general, there are three options that will help you to better refine your search results in the ACI Scholarly Blog Index: an exact phrase search, facet filtering options, and removing an unwanted keyword from your search results.

Exact Phrase Search

sugar pill no quotes - search resultsYou can enclose any search phrase with quotation marks to ensure that your search results only include that specific phrase, and with the words in that specific order. For example, the phrase “sugar pill” is a lesser-known phrase sometimes used when referring to a placebo, or an ineffective drug or other stimulus. If I search ACI for the phrase sugar pill without enclosing it in quotation marks, I’ll receive 107 search results. While there are a couple of okay-search-results on page 1, the vast majority of my first page of results – and many of my other search results, too – will simply mention the word sugar, and the word pill, somewhere in the abstract or in-ACI text. However, there are many topics out there relevant to sugar – like glucose, diabetes, diets, and nutrition – that might refer to a PILL in some context – like medications or nutritional supplements.

sugar pill WITH quotes - search resultsI can easily remedy this situation by putting quotation marks around the phrase “sugar pill” and re-running the search. Revising my search with this option then results in twelve highly-relevant results: all twelve articles discuss some aspect of sugar pills with the definition and context I had originally intended.

Facet Filtering Options

ACI facets are located on the left side of every search results page. Applying one or more of these facets will help you to further refine your search results list. Clicking on a facet – for example, a Library of Congress Classification facet or an Author Degree Facet – will limit your search results to only those pertaining to that facet. When the facet is applied, that facet option will appear at the top of your page so that you can easily see what your results are filtered by – and you can click on the filter (on the left or at the top) to remove it and return to your previous search results list. Because you can use any number and combination of facets, you can apply and remove varying facet filters to see how applying each facet – or combination of facets – affects your search results list.

case law with JD - searchFor example, if we search for the general phrase case law, we’ll get more than 42,000 articles in our search results list. However, if we click on the JD facet filtering option under the Author Degree facet, this will limit our results to 11,500. That number reflects the number of posts mentioning the words CASE and LAW and that were authored by a blogger with a Juris Doctorate (law) degree. (And if that’s still too many results, we could always enclose our case law phrase in quotation marks.)

Remove Keyword from Results

gluten -freeYou can easily remove an unwanted keyword from your search results list by typing that keyword in the search box with a minus (-) sign just before the word. Be careful not to put a space between the minus sign and the unwanted word. For example, a search for gluten brings up 1,400 articles in our search results list. However, because topics like celiac disease and gluten-free diets are currently pretty common, many of those results refer to one or both of those topics. If you were interested in those aspects of gluten that weren’t necessarily related to gluten-free diets or gluten-free foods, simply entering the search phrase gluten -free will remove the word free from all search results. We now have 772 results for articles on gluten that don’t have the word free in the abstract or in-ACI text.

You can also do this with multiple unwanted keywords. For example, you could search for gluten -free -diet in order to remove the words free and diet from your search results.

Did you find the above strategies to be helpful in your search? Tune in next week, when we’ll look at the steps you can take when you’re not getting enough (or enough relevant) search results… and be sure to add your own favorite search strategies and tips in the comments box below.

To learn more about the ACI Scholarly Blog Index or other ACI resources, please visit the ACI Information Group website. To explore the ACI Scholarly Blog Index, click here for a free individual trial login, or click here to request a free trial customized to your institution.