Finding Articles with Summon

An introduction to searching for articles using Summon, the general-purpose article search tool.

  • Transcript

    If you are looking to find articles for a research assignment, a good place to start is the Articles Tab on the Libraries homepage. 

    The Articles tab searches a database called Summon, which covers a wide variety of topics. 

    The library also has access to more discipline-specific databases, and you might want to use one of those if you are doing more exhaustive research. But Summon is a good starting point for many research assignments.

    Let's say I'm writing a paper on the forensic science of fingerprint identification.

    If I type my search terms, fingerprint identification, into the search bar, Summon brings up a big set of results. This list includes over 150,000 articles that contain the words "fingerprint" and "identification."

    But if I need only a handful of really good articles, how do I pick just a few of these? Summon has some tools to help me narrow and focus my results.

    To start, let's make sure that we're looking only at results that will have the kind of sources that I want. In this case, I'm interested only in peer-reviewed, academic articles.

    On the left, in the section called “Refine your search,” Summon has a checkbox, labeled "Peer-Reviewed". Once I click that box, Summon updates my results list, displaying articles only from scholarly journals. 

    But if I look more closely at the articles, I see that while many are about fingerprint identification in forensic science, quite a few are not.

    This is because Summon is simply searching for the words “fingerprint” and “identification”, which can be used in multiple contexts, not just in forensic science.

    To focus my results list to a particular field of study, I can use the "Discipline" and "Subject Terms" filters found on the left hand side of the screen. 

    Filtering by "Discipline" can be helpful if I need to make my search specific to a particular area of study.

    Since Summon doesn't list every discipline, however, filtering by "Subject Terms" is good when I want to focus my results on a main idea that may not map neatly to a specific academic discipline.

    For the purposes of this video, we're going to filter by "Subject Terms." 

    By default, the list is sorted by the most common subjects associated with your search terms.

    Only a few are visible in the Subject Terms window, but you can scroll down to see the full list.

    If you know the topic you are looking for, you can also search for it without scrolling through the list.

    I can select one - or a few - of the terms that match the topic I'm looking for by clicking the box to the left of the term.

    Conversely, I can exclude terms that are skewing my results away from the topic I have in mind by clicking the Exclude link that appears to the right of the term when I hover my cursor on it.

    For this case, I have to scroll way down to find the Subject term that most closely matches the topic I have in mind – “forensic sciences.”

    But it’s well worth the effort of finding the right term, since it cuts my overall number of results from over 100,000 to just over 2,400.

    And more importantly, these results are much more closely aligned with my topic. 

    Summon has other filters like 'content type' and 'publication date'  that can help me further refine my results.

    But I've already refined enough at this point to scan this list for articles I want to use for my research.

    As I read through the list of results, I look for titles that seem most relevant to my topic.

    Let's say this one called “Expertise in Fingerprint Identification” seems to suit my purposes.

    I can reveal a menu with more information, including the article's abstract, by hovering my mouse over or clicking the preview link at the bottom of the record. 

    I can usually get the whole article by clicking on its title or the "Full Text Online" link.

    This takes me to the journal publisher's website or a database that provides access to this article. 

    In some cases, the link in Summon may not bring you directly to the full text of an article.

    If that ever happens, you request a copy of the article through the Libraries’ Tripsaver service, by clicking on the “Request this PDF” link on the article not found page.

    If you have any questions about submitting your request, you can chat with a librarian for immediate assistance.

    When you do find a good article, it’s important to know that the URL from the database is often a temporary address, and will not necessarily return you to the article at a later time.  

    However, Summon provides an easy way to return to selected results. 

    You can access a permanent link for an article from the results page by clicking on the Permanent Link icon to the right of the article’s title.

    You can also keep track of the articles that you want to return to by clicking on the bookmark icon.

    This puts articles in a temporary folder, which you can print, email, or export to your favorite citation management system.

    If you decide to email the list to yourself, the email you get from Summon will include a permanent link to your results.

    You can even format the citation in your preferred citation style.

    If you have any questions about Summon or any other library tool, you can always ask a librarian for help.




  • Kristy Borda: Scripting, Editing 
  • Anne Burke: Scripting, Editing 
  • Hunter Duggin: Narration
  • Alison Edwards: Scripting, Editing
  • Tim Mensa: Narration Direction, Audio Editing 
  • Tisha Mentnech: Scripting, Editing
  • Darrien Bailey: Animation, Scripting, Editing, Video Production 


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