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How Do I

Improving Your Search

If you are not happy with your search results, you may need to revise your search strategy.  Keep in mind that searching is not an exact science and involves trial and error!

Re-evaluate your keywords:  Your searches will only be as good as your search statements and the keywords you are using!  Investigate the professional and scholarly vocabulary of the field/topic that you are searching.  The terms that you are using may not be the same that scholars in the field use.  Many of our databases (Eric, PsychInfo, Medline) contain a thesaurus to direct you to additional keywords.  Look for a link to a "Thesaurus" or use the "Help" feature.  If you haven't already, consult subject encyclopedias and dictionaries to discover official terminology.  You can also ask your professor or a librarian for ideas!

Use the Advanced Search Option:  The Advanced Search option gives you more control over your results.  Try using the provided limiters to narrow your results, so that you don't have to wade through a long list of irrelevant resources.  You can also try changing the way your results are displayed using the "Sort" feature, which may bring more relevant resources to the top of your list.  Many databases have a useful "Help" feature that provides instruction and recommendations on searching.

Examine Your Source:  Are you searching in the right place?  The library has both multidisciplinary databases that cover a wide range of subjects and are a great place to start your research and specialized databases that cover a specific subject area or type of resource.  Make sure the database you are using applies to your topic!  Also, don't just search in one place; try searching in a variety of databases!

Master Creating Search Statements:  If you are not combining your keywords correctly or making proper use of search techniques, your results will be inadequate.  Visit our Create Search Statements page for help!

If All Else Fails:  If you have tried everything you can think of and are still unhappy with your results, it may be time to schedule a Research Consultation with a reference librarian.  In order to make the most of your consultation, it is important that you arrive prepared:

  • Understand your assignment and bring a copy of it with you for the librarian to read.  Discuss any questions you have about the assignment with your professor before your consultation.
  • Be prepared to tell the librarian the steps you have already taken in your research process.