Making the most of your Overton trial 

Overton is used by organisations for various main purposes; understanding Policy Influence,  demonstrating Research Impact, Discovery and Research, and to support Grant Applications. 

Often a team responsible for one of these areas may trial or subscribe to Overton without the other areas being aware that they can benefit as well. For example, a Research Impact team may use Overton to assess their institution’s impact on policy, while Subject Librarians could use the database to streamline grey literature searching. 


The first step to making the most of a trial is to make everyone aware one is going on! If you are in a small organisation where everyone definitely reads their emails, a simple all-staff email with the sign up link may be all you need. 

If you work in a large organisation like a university, with multiple stakeholders or use cases you might need to diversify your approach. If your institution uses library guides, Overton should be added to Grey Literature guides, guides on Measuring Impact and guides looking at Policy influence and Knowledge Exchange. 

If you use Blogs, Staff and Student Noticeboards, or VLEs like Blackboard, announcements of new resources and time-limited trials is a good place to raise awareness. 

People know about it, but how do they get the most out of it?

When trialling a new resource, it’s easy to get lost or fall down a rabbit-hole of interesting papers but not actually get much insight into how you could use it regularly to inform your research or day-to-day work. To this end, we suggest going into Overton with a clear task and have provided several use cases to help you see the potential 

Research Impact Managers;

Start with a clear aim; a priority research area, a small research group, or a key collaboration with another university or an external organisation, governmental department or the NHS.

For a general overview of your institution, search the ‘Policy Documents’ tab using keyword topics and filter to your institution and the last 5 years. This will show you Policy documents published in the last 5 years, which have cited research produced by your institution. 

  1. The search tab you choose impacts your results. This is searching for Policy Documents with the query “Climate Change” AND “adaptation”.
  2. The filter narrows the results down to Policy Documents citing or mentioning work from the University of Bristol.
  3. Each list of results will offer you the option to ‘See Report’. This brings together summary information about the results including a map of the policy sources, funders of the research, institutions cited, and more. Here is an Example; Policy Documents matching “Climate Change” AND “Adaptation”, connected to the University of Bristol
  4. The number of documents matching your query. 

For an in-depth analysis of a research group; gather a list of DOIs of the publications produced by your research group and search them in the Scholarly Articles tab. You can normally extract this information from your institutional repository or CRIS. 

Using the Scholarly Articles tab and a list of DOIs is the most reliable way to find Policy Documents connected to your researchers. 

One important thing to note here is that we only have scholarly articles which have been cited in policy documents. If you published an article last week, it is unlikely to have made it into policy…yet!. 

Once you have searched your research groups’ scholarly articles, click the ‘Explore’ drop down menu and ‘See the policy citing these papers’

This gives you a list of related policy documents which have cited the scholarly research your group has produced.

Once you’ve gone onto the policy documents, you can view a summary report which is specific to the policy influence of the research group whose work you searched. 

Discovery and Research

You can search Overton in the same way you would search an academic database, but looking for Grey Literature. Instead of going to each government, IGO, NGO website, you can search our database. 

You can create a search string in Overton and search the ‘Policy Documents’ tab using Boolean operators and then filters to narrow down your search results.

Alternatively you can;

  1. Create your search string in an academic database, 
  2. Export the resulting list of DOIs.
  3. Go into the Overton ‘Search Scholarly Articles’ tab and paste those DOIs into the ‘Search by DOI, ORCID, PMID or ISBN’ Option.
  4. Use the ‘Explore’ Drop down menu to ‘See the policy citing these papers’
  5. The resulting list will be policy documents which have cited the scholarly work from your original academic search, and are likely more relevant to your literature review topic. 

Grant applications

The data in Overton can be used to support new grant applications, or to support the argument for an extension or continued funding. Grant applications often call for a demonstration of how your research has made a ‘real world impact’ and policy influence or appearing in policy can be one of many ways to evidence this. 

You can use Overton to show where your work has been cited in policy, but also see where you have been mentioned in policy. There is a subtle but key distinction between these terms. Where ‘citations’ are connected to a piece of published work, a ‘mention’ can demonstrate evidence of influence without necessarily being connected to a published article. Mentions can be picked up in Overton if you have given evidence at hearings, committees, testimony or in transcripts which have then been published as policy documents.

Overton also identifies and highlights where you have been cited or mentioned in the policy document, making it easy for you to see whether your research has been used as background material (still important), and whether there has been a sustained interaction or use of your research. 

Updated on March 11, 2024

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles