In a library catalog or database, remember research is more an art than a science. So, if you receive zero results when you think you should've gotten something, CHECK THE FOLLOWING:
- Did you spell all your words correctly? Most catalogs and databases are very unforgiving of misspelled words and will not return "did you mean?..." suggestions.
- Did you try using alternate keywords? A good practice is to make a list of terms first. A terrific place to get the correct terminology or concept is from your Professor's syllabus or the table of contents from your textbook.
- Are you sure you're in the right resource? Particulary in subject specific databases, make sure you are in resource that will have information relevant to your topic. For example, if you are searching for articles in business management, you aren't likely to find as many relevant results in a heath sciences database.
- Are your terms too specific? Try starting with the highest level of whatever concept you are going for and stay away from entering phrases or entire sentences. If you are conducting a 'phrase search' and the results don't make sense, try putting those terms in "quotes" (e.g., "urban waste") or separate your concepts. More on advanced techniques and boolean searching...
- Are you including nonessential words? Library searches do not retrieve results in the same way Google does and as stated above, often do not perform well processing sentences. Library systems also generally ignore capital letters, acronyms and words such as 'a' 'an' 'of' or 'the' and do not understand symbols such as colons (:), semi colons or dashes. Acronyms, however, can be very effective if you are in the right subject specific database and resources such as EBSCO will guide you with subject suggestions as well.
- Did you try a subject search? Often it is best to let the catalog or database "do the driving" for you. Once you find a single relevant item, try clicking on the subject hyperlink(s) for more results.