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HLT330 Research Skills Guide: Evaluating Search Results for Relevance

Evaluating Search Results for Relevance

In most online resources, when you get a list of results, you see the brief records of articles. At this stage, you can begin to evaluate your search results.

  • The first part in evaluating research is assessing the relevance of the research to your needs.
  • If you look at the titles of articles, you can check that your search uncovered the type(s) of publication you were intending to find. For example, were you seeking only research articles or only systematic reviews? Scan the article titles to check that your search limiters worked as you intended. If you’re unsure by just looking at an article title, click on the article title to see the full record.
  • Another important aspect of evaluating the relevance of published research is assessing how well the article answers your professional practice or policy question(s) - or your university assignment needs! Remember that right from the start, before you begin searching, you should be very clear about what your information needs are.
  •  After checking the article title, you might also wish to check the article abstract. You can see this in the full record. A well-written abstract will give you a clear idea about whether or not the article is relevant to your needs. If the abstract seems relevant, you can proceed to the next step and access the full-text of the article with some confidence that you won’t be wasting time and downloads.

Here's a screen-shot of how you might check an article in an EBSCOhost results list. Hint: To view an article abstract quickly and easily, simply mouseover the magnifying-glass icon beside the title of the article :

CINAHL Results list showing how to use the title link to view the full record and the Add to folder icon to add to foler

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