Q. If you are searching for a particular topic and cannot find any resources on it, what might be the problem?


There could be any number of reasons causing your trouble in finding resources on your topic, including:

  • Your search terms might be too specific.  Try taking a step back from the particulars of the topic and thinking about the broader subject.  For example, if you were looking for resources on border collies, try search terms like "dogs" or "pets".  You may not find the perfect article or book, so you may need to extract pieces from many different sources which touch on your topic.
  • Your search terms may not match the terms being used in the literature.  Try using synonyms, as many as you can think of, for different searches, or use subject searching.  Many databases have subject lookup or browse features (it may be called a thesaurus) where you can enter terms and find the accepted term used for that topic.
  • You may be entering too much into the search box.  This includes too many keywords, but also short linking words and prepositions like "is", "for", and "of".  Most search engines get bogged down searching for these terms, and will either return fewer results or many irrelevant results.
  • You may be looking in the wrong place.  Most databases cover a particular subject area, and if your topic falls outside of the area (health science, business, psychology, history, etc.) of the database you are searching then you will probably not have much success. 
  • If you don't see a broad subject area listed on the Online Resources page that your topic falls into, try databases like Academic OneFile or OmniFile Full text Select listed under General/Interdisciplinary.

Contact your campus librarians for assistance with troublesome searches. We are always happy to help!


  • Last Updated Apr 17, 2018
  • Views 365
  • Answered By Selina Arthur

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