I'm not getting enough search results. How do I find more?
Several strategies are available for you to find more sources through (1) varying your searches and (2) tracing the citations you have already found.
- Simplify your search. If you are using several different keywords in one search, try using just one or two and see whether you receive a larger number of good results.
- Experiment with the vocabulary you are using in your search terms, trying out synonyms and related terms for the words you have already used. Individual authors, journal publishers, and databases may describe the same concept in different ways. When you find a relevant source, note the vocabulary it uses.
- Once you've identified some synonyms and related terms, try connecting them with "OR" in your search. For example, the search phrase “car crashes” OR “car accidents” will yield more results relating to car collisions than either phrase alone.
- Use a truncation symbol to search for variations of a word in your search. For example, in the search term comput*, the truncation symbol is an asterisk. Results from this search would include the words computer, computers, computing, computation, computational, and so on. Check the "Help" or "Search Tips" provided in a particular database to learn which symbol is used for truncation.
Citation tracing is the practice of using the bibliography of references from one relevant source to identify additional relevant sources.
Skim the List of References
When you have identified a useful source, go to the end of the article and locate its list of references, works cited, or bibliography. Skim through the citations in the list, focusing on the titles, to identify other potentially useful sources. Some lists will include links that take you directly to those other papers. When they do not, you can use the tips in this related FAQ to access the full text of an article.
Bibliographies necessarily contain citations for previously published studies. How can you find concurrent and newer ones?
Use Google Scholar
Google Scholar includes a couple of tools that help with identifying related articles. To begin, search for the useful source in Google Scholar; article title usually works best.
Below each article title and description, Google Scholar provides a link labeled "Cited by [number]." Click that link to explore a list of more recent sources that have cited the one you searched.
Next to the "Cited by" link, Google Scholar also provides a link labeled "Related Articles." Click that link to explore a list of sources that use similar language. (Google does not share exactly how they determine which articles are related.)
Ask the Library
If you continue to find too few search results, the topic you chose to research may be too narrow. In that situation, consider researching a similar topic that is broader than what you originally tried. Librarians can help you to expand or focus your topic.