[Scopus, literature review, thesis, beginner, papers]


In the realm of academia, conducting a comprehensive literature review is a crucial step towards building a strong foundation for your scholarly work, whether it’s a paper, thesis, or any other research project. As you embark on this journey of knowledge discovery, having the right tools at your disposal is essential, and one such powerful tool is Scopus.

This tutorial is designed for individuals who are new to Scopus, offering a guided tour through its features and functionalities. Whether you’re a student navigating the intricacies of academic research or a newcomer to the world of literature reviews, this tutorial aims to simplify the process of utilizing Scopus to its full potential.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll not only be comfortable using Scopus but also equipped with the skills to conduct a thorough and well-informed literature review, laying the groundwork for impactful research.

The structure of this tutorial is as follows:

  • Introduction & access
  • Searching for documents
  • Advanced search options
  • Summary

Let’s embark on this journey together and unlock what Scopus has to offer!

What is Scopus?

Scopus is a comprehensive abstract and citation database designed to facilitate academic research. Developed by Elsevier, Scopus covers a vast range of disciplines, including science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities. It provides researchers, scholars, and students with a centralized platform to access a wealth of scholarly literature, including academic journals, conference proceedings, patents, and other scientific publications.

You might be asking yourself: why Scopus? Well, as you will see during the course of this tutorial, Scopus is not only a comprehensive database for a variety of disciplines, it also has personalized features that make your research process more efficient and organized.

How to access

Scopus Database use typically requires a subscription or to be granted access through a research institution, university or library.

Subscription access to Scopus is only available for organizations and enterprises, hence check if that may be the case for your organization.

There is also an option to use Scopus for free, by scrolling down on the Elsevier Scopus landing page, find the button that says “View Scopus Preview”

Institutional access

The most common option to access Scopus is through a university and/or library, either by means of an authentication or just by simply being connected to the Wi-Fi.

Follow these steps for a smooth start to the Scopus experience:

  1. Make sure you are connected to the university Wi-Fi or the VPN.

  2. Navigate to the Scopus landing page, it should look as follows:

Click on the button “Sign in”.

  1. A box should appear, click on the button “Sign in via your organization”:

  1. Type in the box the name of your university, click on the result.

  2. You will be now asked to authenticate your university account. Once verified, you should have full access to the Scopus Database.

On the top left corner of the home page you can verify your institutional access. On the top right corner you can also check your personal account, where you can explore personalized features that we will dive into later in the tutorial.

Now that you are set up, we can get into exploring what Scopus has to offer.

Introduction to the User Interface

Personalized features

By clicking on your account icon on the top right corner, a menu opens with the following personalized items:

  • Saved lists: allows you to rename, edit, delete, add to or export your saved lists of papers or documents.
  • Saved searches: allows you to rename, edit, delete, combine or set an alert for saved searches. You can also run a saved search to view the results since the search was last run.
  • Alerts: allows you to edit, delete or change the status of your alerts. You can also check for new results based upon the date that the alert was created. Alerts are personalized notifications that you can set up to be updated when new research comes out on a topic of your interest.
  • Export preferences: allows you to choose a preferred file type or reference management tool when exporting documents. This can be very useful when exporting references or citations of the literature you plan to use. In this section you can select the export settings of your preference, which will then be applied to your search sessions.

How to search & analyze results

Let’s start exploring the search features of Scopus!

For the purpose of this tutorial we will use the topic of unemployment, but you are free to choose whatever you feel more comfortable with.

Enter unemployment in the search box as follows:

  • By default, Scopus will search the word(s) in the Article title, Abstract and Keywords of documents. You can specify in which fields to search using the drop-down menu. Some options include: authors, sources, affiliation. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will stick with the default option, but feel free to play around!

  • To expand the search to additional fields, click the “+ Add search field”. A new search bar will appear, let’s use long term for this search.

Notice that the two searches will be connected by the logical operator AND, meaning that the search aims to include both terms. Alternatively, you can opt for OR and AND NOT operators, depending on your purpose, but don’t worry about this as the topic of logical operators will be covered later in this tutorial.

  • You can also set a specific date range for search results in the following way:

For more information on setting up a search query in Scopus, you can select ‘Search tips.’

Click the search button and let’s see what the results are!

Below is the overview of the search results. As you can see there is a large number of documents, they might not all be relevant for your research. To this purpose, let’s see how you can refine your search in a few easy steps to get closer to the literature you actually need.

On the left side of the page, the column “refine search” has a few filters, we will walk through them and use some which aim at our research:

  • Year: if you haven’t set this filter previously, there is still the possibility to do so.
  • Author name: In case you are searching by author or combinations of authors.
  • Subject area: You can restrict the search to your area of interest, in our case we will stick to social sciences
  • Document type: Choose among different formats, we will choose article.
  • Source title
  • Publication stage
  • Keyword: You can select more keywords to further restrict your search, let’s try selecting unemployment, female and adult.
  • Affiliation
  • Funding sponsor
  • Country
  • Source type
  • Language: Select your language of interest, it is sometimes overlooked as a way to reduce the number of documents you will have to look through!
  • Open access

Once you are done with your selection, don’t forget to click Limit to.

There are a few more adjustments you can perform to the output of the search. Let’s have a look at them.


By default, the search results are sorted by date. Use the ‘Sort by’ drop-down menu to sort in a different order. One that might be useful if you are writing a thesis is sorting by highest cited, this allows you to immediately point out reliable sources of literature.

Another feature is the possibility to show the abstract by clicking ‘Show abstract’, useful to have a good first impression of a paper instead of opening it.

Analyze results

By clicking the feature ‘Analyze results’ on a search results page provides an analysis of your search and shows you the number of documents in your results broken down (on separate tabs) by year, source, author, affiliation, country, document type, subject area and funding sponsor. You can click on individual cards to expand and view additional data.

In the above image you can see the amount of documents published on our topic through time, it depicts a clear increase in research especially in the last decade. This can be very useful for your research as it points out which years were more prolific for researchers.

By scrolling down you can inspect additional data. Authors with the most documents, countries, affiliations and subject areas can be inspected in more detail.

Working with a document

If you find a title or abstract interesting, it is always a good idea to open the page for that document as you can see below:

Scopus offers the following features and insights:

  • Click an author name to go to the details page for that author.
  • You can see the button ‘View PDF’ if you have direct access to the pdf version of the file; otherwise click on ‘Full text options’ to check other access types.
  • View the three most recent documents to cite this article in the top right corner.
  • ‘Metrics’ are article level metrics which allow you to evaluate both citation impact and levels of community engagement around an article.
  • By scrolling down you can view the ‘References’ cited in this document. The titles link to the abstract pages for those articles.

Keeping track of the literature you come across and that could be useful for your literature review is extremely important. Scopus offers the possibility to save an article thanks to the ‘Save to list’ button easily indicated by a star.

By clicking that, a box will appear asking you to save the document in either a new or existing list as you can see in the image below:

The files will then be stored in the personalized area ‘Saved lists’ in ‘My Scopus’ which you can access by clicking on your personal profile:

You can do something similar also with your search query. Navigate back to the search results page:

Click on save search and choose a name to easily identify your query. It will be stored in your personal area under ‘Saved searches’.

The advanced search feature allows you to create a more complex search using field codes, proximity operators or Boolean operators.

For this part of the tutorial let’s change our research topic to how does climate change affect coffee production.

Type in the search bar coffee and then click on ‘Advanced document search’ as you can see below:


To start this part of the tutorial reset the previous search by removing filters and keywords in the search bar.

The keyword ‘coffee’ was carried over to the advanced search tab.

On the right side of the page you can explore the different operators, by positioning the cursor on the operator you can get a brief description of its function. By clicking on the ‘+’ a paragraph explaining the function pops up and the operator will also be added to the query.

Let’s start by adding AND to our search, as you type, notice that a drop down menu opens with potential suggestions, follow the operator with ‘TITLE-ABS-KEY’ and within the parenthesis write production so that both will be searched in the title, abstract and keywords of documents. Using the same logic, add also ‘climate’.

This is what our search query should look like: TITLE-ABS-KEY(coffee) AND TITLE-ABS-KEY(production) AND TITLE-ABS-KEY(climate).

Now that the keywords are defined let’s scroll down and explore the filters, which are essentially the same ones as the previous section.

Let’s select:

  • Under document filter, only open access files.
  • Subject areas: agricultural and biological sciences (under life sciences) and economics, econometrics and finance (under social sciences).

Click on ‘search’, you will be directed to the search results page we are already familiar with.

If you realize you have limited your results too far you can modify your search, perhaps remove some filters. It is also possible to edit your advanced search string, for example you can remove the ‘open access’ requirement as your institution might have free access to a lot of resources.

To view the search string more clearly as you modify it click on ‘Outline query’, highlight the unwanted items and delete them as you can see below:


  1. Accessing Scopus: Check institutional access or use the free preview option on the Elsevier Scopus landing page.

  2. Utilizing Personalized Features: Use ‘Saved lists’, ‘Saved searches’, and set up ‘Alerts’ to organize and track research.

  3. Basic Search Techniques: Enter keywords and refine search results using filters.

  4. Analyzing Search Results: Use ‘Analyze results’ to gain insights on research trends and evaluate citation impact.

  5. Saving Relevant Documents: Use ‘Save to list’ to save articles and queries for future reference.

  6. Advanced Search Techniques: Utilize Boolean operators and field codes to create complex search queries and refine results.

By following these key steps, you can effectively utilize Scopus for comprehensive literature research, making your academic journey smoother and more productive!

Contributed by Virginia Mirabile