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International Studies

This guide lists American University Library databases and print resources, and free Web sites that are of use to the study and research of International Studies.

Searching Scopus Video

This video will show you how to search the database Scopus for scholarly articles. (4:09)  More specificly, it shows:

  • How to narrow down your search results.
  • Important for literature reviews, how to sort the results by the number of times the work has been cited.
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Searching Scopus (Screen Capture)

Scopus is an important database covering many disciplines in the social sciences.  It provides over 50 million citations and abstracts to articles in 20,000 peer-review journals, 5.5 million conference papers, as well as numerous books and trade publications. 

Scopus is especially useful when writing a literature review because it is one of the few databases that provides the number of times an article has been cited.   A literature review is not a simple list of relevant articles.  A good literature review identifies the important research on that topic. 

Let’s do a search for articles about human rights.

First, select only the Social Sciences & Humanities subject area by deselecting the other three boxes.

Having over 140,000 search results may not be that helpful.  In addition, some of the results do not look very relevant.

Let’s try to narrow down the results.  We will go back to the original search.  We will add quotation marks, “ “, to human rights.  This will tell the database to search for the exact term “human rights”.

The number of search results have been reduced to over 27,000.  That’s better, but still too many to be practical.

Going back to the search page, we will narrow the field that we are searching from article title, abstract or keywords to just the Article Title.  The rationale for is that is if an article is about human rights, rather than simply mentions the term “human rights,” then it is more likely that the phrase “human rights” will be in the title.  This is not foolproof but is a useful tip.

The number of search results is a more manageable 7000 or so.

One can limit the number of results further by using the features on the left hand side of the screen.  These include searching within the results by adding words, filtering the results by subject areas, and/or by the type of document.

What we will do is to sort the results by the number of times the article has been cited.  Scopus is one of the few databases that has this feature.

Generally, the higher the number of times a work has been cited the more important or influential is the work.  That does not necessarily mean that the article is more accurate, just that more people have referred to it and used it in their research.  Also, keep in mind that articles recently published have less opportunity to be cited so older articles tend to get cited more often. 

Like many bibliographic databases, Scopus shows the work’s bibliography or list of references, that is, articles and books that the author used in doing his research.  However, Scopus is one of the very few databases that also lists the articles and books that used this work.  This can be very useful when one finds a relevant article and wants more recent articles related to that topic.