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Literature searching

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Evaluating your search strategy

Too much information?

If you find too many items, consider these possibilities:

  • Your subject area is too broad. The terms you are using are too broad. Try making them more specific, e.g. if you were investigating 'the price of vegetables' maybe you should focus on 'the price of carrots'.
  • Make the search more specific by adding concepts. Use the Boolean 'and' to link concepts in your search strategy.
  • Try limiting the search in some way. For example look at the 'price of vegetables in the last 3 years'.
Research Topic Search Strategy
instead of 'the price of vegetables' price AND vegetables
try 'the price of carrots'' price AND carrots'

Too little information?

Not finding enough resources? Consider these possibilities:

  • Your subject area is too narrow. The terms you are using to define your topic are too narrow. Try broadening out the search, e.g. instead of focusing on 'the price of carrots' maybe you should consider the 'price of food'.
  • Try making the search more general by taking away a concept, e.g. instead of 'the price of carrots in Leeds market' try 'the price of carrots'.
  • Check the terminology you used to define your concepts:
    • Check your spelling
    • Identify alternative terms to express your concepts, check a thesaurus to identify synonyms and antonyms.
    • Use truncation so that words with the same stem but alternative endings are not being rejected.
  • Have you used the most appropriate databases?
  • The information that you are seeking does not exist.