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How to Evaluate Your Article Search Results in 5 Minutes

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Some quick tips
Do you need to search for articles for a research paper or other project?  This guide will help you quickly sort through the search results you retrieve and judge whether the articles will be useful for you (or not).

Below is a selection of hits from the library's basic search box when searching for information on Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Search results for Ida B. Wells-Barnett
From these short article descriptions, look for the answers to the following questions:
-  What type of article is it?  This is shown by the icon on the left underneath the title.

   Items labeled Periodical will be articles from popular magazines or trade publications, often written by journalists and
   written for the general public.
   Those labeled Academic Journal will come from scholarly, academic sources.  These will be written by academics or other
   professional experts for other scholars in the field; they'll also be based on the authors' research, with their sources
   fully cited.
   Items labeled Review will be reviews of books, movies, or other items that deal with your topic. 
- When was the article published?  Look at the publication date.  Is the material current or older?
- Glance through the article titles and subjects.  Do they fit what you're looking for?  Is your topic the main focus of the article?
Next, click on the titles of any potentially useful articles.  See the text in red for some questions worth considering as you read through the citations and abstracts.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett search results example

A larger version of this image is available (it will open in a new window).

If you didn't find a good number of useful search results, consider one or more of the following:

-  Broaden your search by using fewer search terms, giving you more hits (but potentially less precise ones).
-  Add more search terms with "and" (such as:  Ida Wells-Barnett and civil rights) to narrow down your search. This will give you
   fewer and more precise results.
-  Limit your search by date range or publication type.
-  Try a new search strategy, using synonyms or alternate terms, or perform your search in a different database.

For the next step, see the Booth Library research guide on How to Read a Journal Article.

For additional help on evaluating search results or coming up with search terms, please don't hesitate to ask a librarian