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Optometry and Vision Science Research Guide: Database search help - Scopus

Research resources and information for vision science.

Database Search Help Scopus


Access Scopus by searching for it on the Library's Databases page or by using the following link:

When to use a citation index

Articles that cite your article can be relevant to your research. Discover how a known idea or innovation has been confirmed, applied, improved, extended, or corrected.  Databases that include citation searching: 

Connect with the Librarian

Looking for a demo/walk-through of Scopus? Book office hours with me and we can go over your topic and take a look at the database.

Brie McConnell, MLIS
Liaison Librarian 


Scopus is Elsevier's abstract and citation database, and indexes over 75 million records, including abstracts and conference proceedings. Scopus does not contain the full text, but instead connects you to the full-text through your institution's library. Scopus indexes content from the health, physical and social sciences, and has excellent coverage of optometric and ophthalmic peer-reviewed literature.

If you are considering conducting any type of formal review (ie. systematic, narrative, scoping, etc), you will want to explore Scopus. Outlined below are some useful features that will help you make the most out of your search -- save yourself time, and get relevant results. 

Search features

The main search bar in scopus, showing title-abstract and keyword as the default search field.

So before you start exploring, let's take a look at the default functions that Scopus performs automatically, and if necessary, the overrides you can use to get around them:

Defaults Examples and Overrides

The default search field in Scopus, is TITLE-ABSTRACT-KEYWORD (TITLE-ABS-KEY), because Scopus is an Abstract and Indexing database and does not contain the full-text, but rather links you to the full text through your institutional access (University of Waterloo Library).

You can override this default by changing the search field in the drop-down menu, or adding a new search field such as AUTHOR, LANGUAGE, CHEMICAL NAME, etc

Scopus is case INSENSITIVE 

Example: McConnell is interpreted as mcconnell
Accented characters will work with and without the accent.  Example: deçà and deca will return the same results

Lemmatization: A term similar to truncation, this means that Scopus will find automatically find the singular and plural variants of words.

Example: vision and vision; narrow and narrower
Equivalencies: Scopus will automatically find the equivalent to a term or symbol. Example: ω and omega; cesarean and caesarean, will all return the same results. This is very helpful if you are concerned with capturing the differences between American and British spellings. 
Stop words: Words like "the," "of" and "it," are excluded from searches Override with Exact phrase { }. Any phrase contained within curly brackets { } will only fins an exact match for a word or character, including stop words. 
Punctuation: Commas, hyphens, !, ?, etc., are ignored.  Example: tele-health and telehealth will return the same results

"Loose phrase" vs individual words

This is a KEY distinction to understand before you search. If you do not use the double quotation marks, or specify a Boolean operator (AND, OR, NOT) between two words, then Scopus will automatically add an AND between the two words, which could potentially give you hundreds to thousands of results that you don't need. 

Example: a search of blue light is interpreted as (blue AND light). So your results are going to include the abstracts of ANY record that has the word blue AND light in the text.  Without quotations:
Tip: Use the double quotation marks to search for the phrase "blue light" and you will only get records that use this phrase. Right away, you've just trimmed over 72,000 irrelevant results

With "quotations"

"Loose phrase" vs {Exact phrase}

When you place a phrase like "blue light" in double quotations, this tells Scopus to treat this as a loose phrase which means that the words must be together AND that Scopus will also search for wildcards and lemmatization (finding both singular and plural versions). 

Example: "blue light" will also retrieve "blue lights" when treated as a loose phrase. 

However, when you place a phrase in {curly brackets}, Scopus will treat that as an exact phrase, and not apply any wildcards or lemmatization to the search.

Example: a search for {blue light} would not return results that included blue lights or blue lighting.

So be careful with exact phrase searching, as this may be too limiting at times. 

The wildcards: * and ?

You can use a wildcard for any word or "loose phrase" when you're unsure of the spelling, or would like to account for multiple spelling variations. 

Wildcard Example
? represents any single character wom?n returns results for both woman and wome
* represents any number of characters, including zero

comput* returns results for computer, computers, compute, computerize and computerization

"*adrenergic agents" returns realists for β-adrenergic agents and α-adrenergic agents

Use proximity operators to find words that are near one another

Proximity operators are powerful advanced search features in Scopus, that can really elevate your search. However, these features can take practice to work with, so if you find yourself running into trouble, please connect with me. You will NOT need to use proximity operators in every search -- it just depends on your topic and scope. 

Proximity operator Example
Preceding (Pre/n): The first word must be no more than (number) apart from the second word

Typing "blue light" PRE/2 harm* into the search box, will look for the word harm* (as a wildcard, harmful, harmonic, etc) within 2 words of the preceding loose phrase "blue light"

Within (W/n): It doesn't matter which word comes before the other

Now trying typing "blue light" w/5 harm* into the search box, and you will be retrieving all the abstracts where a variation of harm is within 5 words (either before or after) of the phrase "blue light"


Exporting results

Scopus allows you to export lists of your results, either directly from your search results, or from you 'Saved Lists.' You can also export results and documents individually from Scopus, either as a file or directly to a reference manager, such as Refworks or Endnote.

You can export as these file types:

  • RefWorks- Export the document to your RefWorks personal database.
  • Mendeley- The document will export to Mendeley and is usable from within their system.
  • RIS format - Export to other reference management applications including Zotero, Reference Manager, ProCite, and EndNote.
  • CSV - Export a comma separated file that you can open in Microsoft Excel.
  • BibTeX format - Export a document to a LaTeX environment or for use with Bibshare in Microsoft Word.
  • Text - Export a plain text document.