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Summon: Find Online Journal Articles: Home

A basic strategy for using the Summon search engine to find online journal articles.

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Brian Gray
Title: Team Leader Research Services; RSL for Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering AND Macromolecular Science & Engineering
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The Summon Search Engine

The Summon is the search engine which the Kelvin Smith Library has chosen to provide searching across all the resources it makes available to the university community.

  • Summon searches physical collections onsite or within other OhioLINK libraries: books, print journals, microfilms, DVDs and CDs.
  • Summon searches online collections for which the Kelvin Smith Library provides access: ebooks, online journals, online newspapers, online reference tools, streaming audio/video, and databases which index the literature of specific fields.

The search strategies outlined below is designed to help find online full-text journal articles on specific topics.

Finding Online Journal Articles with Summon (Focused Strategy)

Overall strategy: execute a search which generates a moderate number of citations, and then use various filters to reduce the results to a manageable set.

Step 1: go to The empty search box in the upper right-hand corner is the basic Summon search box.

Step 2: format your basic search in the following manner: SubjectTerms: (term#1 term#2 term#3). To choose your search terms, give careful thought to the terms which most accurately represent your topic on a broad level. The most productive searches are small strings of nouns. Terms may be connected by the logical operators: AND, OR, NOT, but the AND will be understood if you don't use any. Generally avoid terms such as relationship, effect, or impact, which relate search terms to each other. You may use a single asterisk to stand in for one or more characters: wom*n = woman or women, music* = music or musician or musical. Phrases should be put in quotes: "united states".

Example: for the topic "Is the manner in which children learn music and language related?" The topic might be searched: SubjectTerms: (children music language) or: SubjectTerms: (children music language education) or: SubjectTerms: (music language children NOT infants) or: SubjectTerms: (music language children "united states").

Step 3: once you have executed your basic search, apply the following limits from the left-hand sidebar: Full Text Online, and Scholarly & Peer Review. It is sometimes helpful to exclude Book Reviews, which typically appear in journals. To do so: in the left-hand sidebar under Content Type, click on More. Once another column appears, click the Exclude tab and then click Book Review. Finally click Apply.

Step 4: limit to a specific academic discipline by clicking on More under Discipline in the left-hand sidebar. Once another column appears, click the Include tab and then choose and click on a discipline. Finally click Apply. This helps focus your search on articles in the journal literature of a specific academic discipline. For the example given in Step 2 above, you might choose the discipline of psychology or education. It is easier to evaluate articles -- and find the best -- if you are comparing articles coming out of the same discipline. Your goal at this point is to reduce your set of retrieved articles to less than 100. Summon sorts lists of articles by degree of relevance to your search terms. It does the best job at this when it has smaller sets to work with.

Step 5: additional limiting is possible through the Subject Terms box. These terms come from subject headings which have been assigned to an article. You may choose more than one, although it often works best in choosing multiple subject terms to choose related terms. In the example given in Step 2, related Subject Terms listed include: cognition, cognitive ability, and cognitive development. Note that it is not necessary to always choose a Discipline and Subject Terms. Sometimes Discipline is sufficient, and sometimes just one or more Subject Terms.

Step 6: it is also possible to limit by publication date if your results set is still too large. Publication date should also be used if it is important that you find the most recent articles on your topic.

Step 7: browsing results to find the most relevant articles. There are a number of ways to browse quickly and effectively:

  • Note the article title.
  • Note the name of the journal. This may help you understand the author's perspective on a subject. Always consider the title of the article in relation to the title of the journal.
  • Mouse over the title of the article and you will generally get a summary in a column on the right-hand side. For this to work, you must always close the Include - Exclude - Apply column if it is open. Do so by clicking on Apply.
  • In the article summary, note the Subjects at the bottom of the summary. These are also clues to its content and can help you in rephrasing your original search to get better results.
  • Access the full text and download to your computer. Use the Find command to see if certain terms related to your topic are present and where they appear in the article. In the example in Step 2, many articles appear to be either about children and language, or children in music. By using this Find command technique, you can ascertain whether an article on children and language might also discuss children and music.

Step 8: if an article looks promising, click on the small folder icon to the right of the article's title. This will place the article in a save folder for as long as you stay in Summon. If you leave Summon you will lose your saved articles.

Step 9: the key to this strategy is Step 9, which is an iteration of Steps 3-8. Once you have browsed articles under Subject Terms, go back, unclick your choice under Subject Terms and/or Discipline and choose others to work with. Repeat the process of browsing and saving. Do this as long as you like, choosing different Subject Terms, different Disciplines, even modifying your original search. Browse and save from these sets of articles. Note that articles which you have found and saved by previous searches will be marked with a check mark indicating they are already saved. Articles which keep reappearing are often key articles for supporting a topic.

Step 10: When you feel you have enough articles, click on your saved articles folder in the upper right-hand corner. Note that you can reformat the list in various citation formats such as MLA or Chicago/Turabian, but do not accept these at face value -- always check your citation manual. Be sure to email the list (in its original or Summon format) to yourself. By doing so you will receive a list which retains links to the full text.


Finding Online Journal Articles with Summon (Broad Strategy)

If you find the focused search strategy described above gives results sets that are too small, you can broaden the search by modifying Step 2. You do not need to modify the other steps in the search.

Instead of entering your search in the following manner: SubjectTerms: (term#1 term#2 term#3), simply enter the terms by themselves: term#1 term#2 term#3.

In doing this you allow Summon to look for keywords which appear in the full text of articles in addition to authorized subject terms assigned to those articles. Doing this will often retrieve very large results sets, so the steps which help reduce the size of the results sets, steps 3 - 6, become very important. You may need to limit publication date to one year at a time as you examine results, or rethink your initial search by changing or adding terms.