Summon searching: a how-to guide (part 1)

Today our peer mentor looks at how to search Summon effectively for full text, peer-reviewed journal articles.

Welcome to Summon: BCU’s answer to Google. Summon 2.0 is the easiest way to access all the resources available to you as a BCU student for your research. While Google can throw up a whole manner of content, most of it is unreliable for academic research. On the other hand, Summon contains academic resources from a wide variety of databases to cover all courses. This blog post will introduce you to Summon and show you how to utilise it to get accurate results for your search.

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The most common use of Summon within the university is searching for online journal articles. Journal articles are perfect for any type of assignment or research. Unlike big, chunky textbooks, journal articles focus on a specific area of research and generally focus on the author’s own current study. Another positive aspect of online journal articles is that you can access up-to-date research so you can be confidence in their relevance to your assignments. Finally, by using journal articles in your work, you are showing that you are going further than your reading list and using a wide range of reading giving you a greater understanding of the topic.

However, how do you go about using Summon to search for journal articles?

1. Use Double Quotation Marks when entering your search term.

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Just like with any search engine, if you have more than one word that you want to use as a search term then using double quote marks will capture both words together. Otherwise you might end up with results that use the two words in opposite ends of the article. If you want to use two separate terms put a comma between the two words.

2. On the left-hand panel under ‘Refine Your Search’, click ‘Full Text Online’.

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To filter out any abstracts that may be included, click this so that you can be certain that we have the full text available for use.

3. Also, click ‘Scholarly & Peer Reviewed’.

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This is a key step to take when searching for academic resources. Scholarly and Peer Reviewed articles have been proof-read by other academics in the field. This process is done to make sure that the content of the article is original, sound and relevant. These are the best articles to use in your research.

4. Under ‘Content Type’, click ‘Journal Article’.

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As Summon is an amalgamation of many library resources (including books in the library), we need to filter these out to narrow our results.

5. For the most up-to-date results, under ‘Publication Date’ select ‘Last 3 years’.

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Similar to step 3, much research has been taken further by others. By clicking this you will get the most up-to-date results so that any new discoveries are covered and that out-of-date research is filtered out.  However, if you’re wondering why to select 3 years rather than the last 12 months, this is done so that you are not limiting your search too much as there might not have been any advances in the last 12 months on the subject you are looking at. If, by the end of this process, you think you have a lot of results then it is recommended to click ‘Last 12 months’.

6. To narrow the search further, go to both ‘Subject Terms’ and ‘Discipline’ and select the appropriate filters.

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This is the final step to the process. You may or may not need to use these filters if you feel your search has already been narrowed down enough. However, where some subjects overlap you may get some results which aren’t relevant to your own research. This is where these filters work best. You can click multiple items and apply them to your search [see below for results].

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As you can see, the results of the search has been narrowed down from 7018 results to 203 results which is a rate of 97%.


These simple steps will make a massive difference to your research as you will have immediately cut out a big bulk of the results that are not relevant saving you time and energy having to look through them manually. I hope you find these steps helpful in your own research.

See you around!

Isaac Paul
Library Peer Mentor
Learning, Teaching and Research Services

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