Troubleshooting search problems

Can’t find any articles?

1. Make sure you’re in the right database. Some databases such as EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier cover a wide range of subjects. Most databases, however, focus on a specific subject: PsycInfo for psychology or Criminal Justice Abstracts for criminal justice. LEXIS-NEXIS has different sections for news, law, business and medicine. To choose an appropriate database, try browsing Databases by Subject.

2. Don’t type whole sentences using “of,” “the,” “by,” or “to” in the search box. Many databases do not search like Google. Combine keywords and phrases using the words and or or.

Type: weapons and mass destruction and terrorists
Instead of: the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists

3. Try other words to describe your topic. Be creative with keywords that may have the same meaning.

4. Try a more general search. Broaden your topic to a more general concept or use a single keyword instead of combining keywords or phrases.

Type: child abuse and new york
Instead of: child abuse and new york city

5. Don't change the database settings. The Library has set most databases to search for your terms in the article’s title, abstract (summary) AND subject headings simultaneously.

Finding only a few good articles?

1. Look at the bibliography of articles you’ve already found. This is a good source for additional material.

2. Try a more general search. Broaden your topic or use a single keyword instead of combining keywords.

3. Try other words to describe your topic. Read the abstract (summary) of the good articles you have found for new keywords.

4. Use subject headings or descriptors given by the database. Look at the subject headings or descriptors assigned to the articles you like. Either click on those headings or try a new search using those terms as keywords.

Finding too many articles?

1. Narrow your topic. Try another search using and to combine your keyword with a more narrow term.

Type: cloning and ethics OR cloning and law OR cloning and medicine
Instead of: cloning

2. Limit your search by date or type of material. You may want to limit your articles to the past 6 months, scholarly journals, or experiments. Each database has different ways to limit a search. Check the HELP screens in the database you’re searching.