How to get the most from your search

Information and tips to help you get the most from your search on AER

What do the different content types mean?

Many of the content types on AER are a form of “grey literature” produced by different types organisations including NGOs, government agencies and academic project groups. Much of this content is not peer reviewed with the exception of journal articles and some conference papers. You can find a guide on how to interpret and use grey literature here.

  • Annual report: annual report published by a company
  • Blog: blog posts and plain language summaries of peer reviewed research
  • Book: whole book
  • Book chapter: single chapter from a book
  • Bulletin: news-based publication, published by a company (e.g. a newsletter)
  • Bulletin article: single article from a bulletin
  • Conference paper: written document usually created alongside an oral presentation for a conference
  • Educational material: best practice guides and teaching materials
  • Grant report: formal summary that grant recipients write to update funders on the use of their grants
  • Journal article: peer-reviewed research published in academic journals
  • Manuals: manuals for using a specific tool, as well as the tool itself if available as a PDF format (e.g. checklists)
  • Miscellaneous: other AER relevant documents that don’t fit existing categories
  • Reports: high level information from a “snapshot” of time, possibly part of a series, primarily for coordinators/decision makers
  • White paper: a report/guide informing readers concisely about complex policy issues and presents the author body’s philosophy on the matter

What does peer review mean?

Peer review is the evaluation of scientific articles by other scientists who are experts in the field and check for their scientific validity. It is an essential part of the scholarly publication process and you can find out more in the BES Guide To Peer Review.

How do I tailor my search?

You can enter any word or phrase in the free text search box and combine this with the drop-down filters to narrow down your results. You can also use Boolean Operators narrow down your search. The basic Boolean Operators and rules are as follows:

  • AND = all search terms must be present in the search result

e.g. conservation AND ethics

  • OR = any of the search terms can be present in the search result

e.g. grasslands OR forests

  • NOT = excludes words from your search

e.g. NOT fire
e.g. restoration AND NOT fire

  • Parentheses () = group commands together as search order is important

e.g. policy AND (land use OR planning)
e.g. (law OR regulation) AND (land use OR planning)

  • Quotation marks “” = search for the specific word or phrase

e.g. “Indigenous knowledge”

  • CABI advanced searching = there are other fields you can search by through CABI’s advanced search terms which you can find here

e.g. search by year of publication: YR = 2024

What does “Published online” mean?

This refers to the date that the document was archived so the year the document was actually written may be earlier than this. You can search for the document’s publication date by using the “YR = 2024” search term.

Why are some journal articles articles behind a paywall?

The majority of the journal content on AER is completely free to access but some articles published in journals such as Journal of Applied Ecology may be behind a paywall as they’re a subscription journal. All BES journal content, however, is free to read after 2 years and some authors provide detailed summaries of their work on our blog, The Applied Ecologist.

If you’re a BES member you can access subscription journal content through the “My BES” page.

Can I save a custom search?

All search terms are reflected in the webpage address (URL) once you complete your search. Simply save the link to come back to the same search results any time or share with others.

Can I get notifications for new documents in topics I’m interested in?

Yes! When you register on AER, you can select your Topics of interest and opt in to weekly digest emails which will alert you if new content within your selected topics are added to AER.

If you’re already registered on the BES website but not on AER, you can log in with your BES details and go to My details on AER to set up your alerts.