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Research 101 (older version): Tips for better searches

I Searched And Found Too Little Or Too Much

Too MANY Results?

Too FEW Results?

Change the terms you use in your search. Brainstorm about more specific terms - what words can you use to describe a more specific type/place/kind of person/time period?


Add more keywords to your initial search.  A search for the one word baseball will have more results for the search for the two words baseball Yankees, which will have more results for the search baseball Yankees Jeter. Adding terms can make your search more focused.


Add limiters (such as date and format).     Look at the options you have, which are usually lined up on one side of the screen. 


Search on a more focused aspect of your topic. 
If you're researching LGBT rights in the United States, you may choose to examine the history of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military, OR societal attitudes and laws regarding gay marriage, OR employment discrimination against gay people. All three would be more focused than just searching for LGBT rights.

Change the terms you use in your search. Sometimes by using a synonymous word, you'll get a very different results list.



Use fewer search terms.                                     A search looking for all the words diabetes women Dominican elderly insulin therapy will have fewer results than a search for the single word diabetes. Removing search terms will make your search more general.


Remove limiters. Limiters (such as date and format) give you a more targeted results list, but sometimes limit your results too much.


Try searching in a database that specializes in a certain subject. You can look in discipline-specific databases (click on the "subjects" drop-down menu) and you can consult research guides created by Hostos librarians. Be flexible and willing to try several different databases.


Think more broadly about your topic. For example, if you're researching gentrification in the South Bronx, you might broaden your search to look at gentrification in cities more generally.

Go back to finding and evaluating sources

 Finding research sources Evaluating research sources

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