Comprehensive Searching in the Social Sciences

This guide details instructions and tips for performing comprehensive and systematic searches in the social sciences.

Subject Guide

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What is Faceting?

In databases, faceting is the process of narrowing your search results using the pre-defined properties/categories of the database. For instance, in most databases, you can limit your search by date, material type, and/or subject. This allows you to manipulate your search results without changing your search string.

Some common facets are:

  • Year/Publication Date
  • Document Type
  • Subject Area
  • Affiliation
  • Funding Agency or Sponsor
  • Author

How to Facet

Once you have your search string built, you can further narrow your results by faceting through the properties on the left side of the page. These facets are:

  • Access type
  • Year
  • Author Name
  • Subject area
  • Document type
  • Source title
  • Keyword
  • Affiliation
  • Funding Sponsor
  • Country/territory
  • Source type
  • Language

Facets in Scopus

When using facets, you can select "Limit to" and "Exclude" for further refinement. Scopus also allows you to search within the results.

Once you have your search string built, you can further narrow your results by faceting through the properties on the left side of the page. These facets are:

  • Publication Years
  • Web of Science Categories
  • Document Types
  • Organizations-Enhanced
  • Funding Agencies
  • Authors
  • Source Titles

When you expand by clicking "View all options," you can also facet by languages, research areas, editors, and more.

Facets in Web of Science

Web of Science also allows you to filter by citation count or popularity, as well as if the paper is open access. Like Scopus, you can search within your results, and Web of Science also has an advanced visual analysis feature.

Inclusion and Exclusion

Inclusion and exclusion criteria allow you to set boundaries in your research and save you a lot of time in the search process. For instance, if you only want studies from the past 5 years, it is much easier to set that as a parameter in your search via your search string or the database facets than it is to sort through the results manually. In your search strategy, you can build your criteria into your search string, or you can refine your results via the database facets; the facets are the best place to narrow by date or language, for instance, and the search string can be useful for study type or population.

Do's and Don'ts

While using databases facets can save time, it is important to remember that not all resource records are created equal. When using facets in your search strategy, make sure you also look at the results without the facets, just in case records you might want to include don't get filtered out. For example, if you use a subject facet to further narrow your search, an article fitting that subject might not have been assigned that subject.

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