More on Developing Database Search Statements

Too many items in your search result

When your search retrieves too many results, focus or narrow your search by adding another key concept to your search statement using AND.

Example: If the search statement television and violence and children retrieves too many items and your hypothesis is that viewing violence on television causes children to be more aggressive, a relevant additional concept to add might be aggression.

Search statement: television and violence and children and aggression

Redirecting your topic can also focus and narrow your search results. As you are researching your topic, you may find new, interesting ideas and topics that you had not thought of before. You may want to redirect your research to a new focus based on what you have found.

Example: In your research on television and violence and children, you may find interesting articles that focus on video games, and you may decide to redirect your research to focus there.

Search statement: video games and violence and children

Example 2, below shows another example of redirecting your research focus.

Too few items in your search result

If your search retrieves too few results, think about dropping one of the key concepts from the search statement.

Example: If you don't find enough searching for television and violence and children, try searching just for the two primary concepts of your research focus: television and children.

Search statement: television and children

Another approach when you find too few results would be to look for synonyms and alternate terms for some of your key concepts.

Example: Consider using movies or music as alternate terms for television since all three are media.

Search statement: (television or movies or music) and violence and children

More examples of search statements

Example 1:

  • Research question: Do fashion trends reflect the state of the economy?
  • Key concepts: fashion, economy, history
  • Synonyms and alternate terms: style, fashionable, economics

Here are some search statements that might be developed for the example above.

(fashion* or style) and econom*

fashion* and history and econom*

(fashion* or style) and history and econom*

Quiz: Which of the search statements above is likely to retrieve the fewest items? the most items?

Example 2:

  • Research question: How does Chicago's urban architecture represent the best of many different styles and periods?
  • Key concepts: Chicago, architecture, urban
  • Synonyms or alternate terms: buildings, city

Here are some search statements that might be developed for the example above.

Chicago and urban architecture

(Chicago or city or urban) and (architecture or building*)

If you were researching this topic, you would discover the names of several architects and architectural styles which you might want to focus on as key concepts in your search statements. You might develop search statements such as these:

Chicago and (Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe)

Chicago and skyscraper

Need more help?

When you need help on your research project, talk to your professor, stop by the Services Desk at the Library, make an appointment to talk with a Reference Librarian, or talk with someone in the Writing Resource Center on your campus.

Last updated: 6/13/2012 4:00:40 PM