As you search for sources for your historiography, you will need to complete multiple searches and expect some trial and error. There are common search issues that researchers frequently encounter.
1. Your search returns too many results and there are many that don't relate to your topic. See the example below that brings back more than 15,000 results.
2. Your search doesn't return many results and it seems like there's nothing available for your topic. See the example below that brings back only 17 results.
3. Sticking with one database to fulfill all their needs and not finding enough variety of sources.
If you try the strategies above and are still having issues, you may need assistance refining your topic or using our resources so you can chat with a librarian or consult your professor.
Before you start searching, you should reflect on your research question to identify the most relevant terms to search for. These keywords that you select can greatly impact what sources you find within the databases or on the Internet.
You may want to start a chart like the one below as you develop your keywords. Each column coincides with a main idea for your research question.
Boolean operators can help your searching by expanding or limiting the results. The term is just a another way of describing using AND, OR, and NOT in your searches.
By using an asterisk symbol (*) you can expand your results by increasing the number of spellings of a word that could be acceptable in the search. For example, in the image on the right, instead of only searching for the word "extremism", using the * symbol, the results will include words such as extremism, extremist, extreme and extremists and increase the number of search results.
This may work better with some words more than others. Using this technique with "social media" would not have the same impact.
Many of the databases in the library include limiters which allow you to focus your search further than keywords or Boolean operators.
With limiters, you can:
However, too many limiters can do just that – overly limit your results. Consider using basic limiters first such as date. Then review the results and use limiters for strategic searches.
As you read through the sources you find, you'll need to organize the results that are most relevant to your topic.
Strategies for organizing your results:
Below is a link to access a downloadable copy of the search chart:
This is a more advanced search strategy but may be helpful for finding sources! In citation mining, you are "searching" within the bibliography, or citations, of a relevant article that you've already found.
One helpful process while writing a large paper with many sources is to collect a few sources you might use in order to summarize them and analyze their potential for your paper.
Creating an annotated bibliography: