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Web of Science: Using a Citation Database: Refine Results Feature: Practice and Caveats

Launch Web of Science

Web of Science can be accessed using the link below.  This link, along with the links to Web of Science on the library homepage and the databases page, allow users to access the resource from both on- and off-campus.

Refine Results

The Refine Results panel is located on the left side of the Search Results Summary page. This feature enables you focus your search with data extracted from fields of the records retrieved in your search: Document Types, Subject Areas, Source titles, Institutions, Authors, Funding information, etc. Click on the triangle next to the search refinement category to display or hide the choices.

To Search Within Results: Enter a Topic query in the text box, and click Search. You can use wildcards and quotations with Search Within Results.

To Refine Results:

1. Click the arrow next to a search field open the category. The five most frequently occurring items appear. The number in parentheses shows the number of records that contain the item.

2. If you wish, click the more options / values link below the category list to open a new page with the first 100 items in that field. You can sort this expanded list by record count or alphabetically.

3. To filter your result set, select one or more check boxes, and then click the Refine button.

Try It

Search for HAMLET as a Topic. You will get about 3,865 results.

We want to narrow to articles about the anti-tumor complex (Human Alpha-lactalbuminMade LEthal to Tumor cells) and not about Shakespeare. To do so, click the arrow to open the Research Areas list.

Click the more options / values link and check the boxes next to CELL BIOLOGY, GENETICS & HEREDITY and ONCOLOGY.  (Use the drop-down menu to sort the list alphabetically to make them easier to find.)

Refine. You should now have about 120 results, which are much more on-target.

Two Caveats

 1. Web of Science Categories and Research Areas can help focus your search, but may also eliminate relevant citations. 

  • Web of Science Categories are traditional terms assigned by Thomson Reuters to journals. They are unique to Thomson Reuters' Web of Science and Journal Citation Reports databases. 
  • Research Area terms are assigned to an article by Thomson Reuters. On the Full Record page, the Research Areas field displays the subject areas of an article.

    At this time there seems to be a large overlap between Web of Science Categories and the Research Areas assigned to an article. For example, the subject category for the journal Science is MULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCES. All articles in Science are assigned to the Research Area SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY OTHER TOPICS. This broad "research area" does not enable filtering the contents of Science for specific research topics such as cell biology or oncology.

2. Organizations-Enhanced and Countries/Territories Fields, like Categories and Research Areas, can help focus your search, but may eliminate relevant records.  


  • Records for abstracts and older articles in particular may not include addresses and affiliations. Also, some records provide only the organization and institutional address of the first author.
  • Variations in organization names and addresses are common. The Organizations - Enhanced field lists organization names and/or their name variants from the Preferred Organization Index. Be aware, however, that this index is relatively new and not all organizations or name variants have been included (yet).