Last Updated: Oct 30, 2015     Views: 24

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might not get results from a search:

  • Too much in one box: Instead of typing full sentences into a search box (for example: what is the impact of motivation on learning?) break your topic up into keywords (motivation, learning), and separate different concepts into different search boxes.  Take a look at our Searching Effectively resources for strategies.

  • Spelling: Our databases are very sensitive to spelling.  Even one letter out of place can mess up your results.

  • Looking in the wrong place: be sure to use a database that will cover your topic.  If you're unsure where to start, try looking at Databases A-Z. (Use the All Subjects drop-down menu to get a list of recommended databases for different subject areas.)
  • Too Complex: Sometimes research topics become very complex, with many variables or concepts.  Try searching for only one or two smaller pieces of your topic at a time until you've gathered enough material to support each part of your topic.  Then tie it all together in your paper.

  • A "gap" in the literature: Especially at the dissertation level, with complex and focused topics, you may find that there is no published material on your exact topic.  Our Defining A Search Strategy resources have strategies to help you search systematically to identify gaps in the literature.  Use our Database Research Log to help keep track of where and how you are searching and our Scholarly Research Log to keep track of what you've read.

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