Common Problems: Research Stumbling Blocks
What To Do When Things Go Wrong...
1. Not Knowing Your Question
- Try doing the beginning of your research exercise again, and go see a reference librarian. They exist to help you with this type of stuff.
2. Too Much Information
- Your topic may be too broad. As an example you may be looking at sustainable energy, try focusing on a geographical location like "sustainable energy in the pacific northwest," or maybe look into a particular sort of energy generation like "hydroelectricity."
3. Not Enough Information
- Your topic might be too narrow, try broadening it. For instance, instead of Grand Coolie Dam in Washington, try Dams in Washington.
- You might be searching the wrong databases. You might be in ERIC, when you want to be in Ebscohost.
- Try searching by subject-heading rather than keywords or the other way around. Remember that keywords search within the natural language of text whereas subject-headings provide lists of works according to their subject matter.
- Consider a different set of keywords.
4. Are you relying on only one type of source material?
- Try not to limit yourself to using only academic journals or books. There is a wealth of information available in reference books, documentaries, and sound recordings.
- Get out there, and look through materials across time. Find what is easily available and what isn't; the old and the new. Be sure to find a healthy balance of primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
5. Unable to make that search engine work for you?
- Try not to assume you know how to make the web work for you.
- Learn how search engines work: See the internet search tips section for help.
- Learn how and where to use Boolean Operators, which will help narrow your search field on the world wide web and in online research databases.