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What to Do When You're Stuck

by Meghan Kowalski on 2022-11-21T10:54:56-05:00 | Comments

It is inevitable in research that you will come to a point where you are stuck. Either you are not finding enough resources or you are finding too many. You could also hit a point where you need one kind of resource but can't seem to track it down. These roadblocks are frustrating, but they are a natural and expected part of the research process. Research is not a linear process, you will often have to divert around or work through roadblocks. 

Here are some strategies you can use to overcome these challenges. You can try one strategy or multiple strategies. If one doesn’t work, try another! If you're not sure what to try, contact a librarian! We are here to help you work through any research frustrations. 

 

Add or remove keywords you are using to search

If you have too many results, try adding more keywords, or more detailed keywords. This helps make your search more specific and gives you fewer results. You can also try different keywords, including synonyms for the keywords you originally used.

If you have too few results, try using fewer keywords. This helps broaden your search and gives you more results. Again, using different keywords, including synonyms for the keywords you originally used, may also improve your search results.

 

Use some different search strategies or adjust the ones you are using. 

Remember the power of quotation marks. If one or more of your search terms is a phrase or a concept that is expressed in more than one word, adding quotation marks around the phrase or concept tells the database to look for those words in exactly that order, rather than in scattered through in a source. That can help narrow your search results.

Try adjusting the filters in your search results. If you have too many results, try adding filters to limit your results to a specific source type or date range. Or, if you have too few results and you are using filters, make them broader or remove them altogether.  

 

Try a different database.

Different databases have different sources. If you are finding too many or too few results in a particular database, try another one. The A to Z Resource List contains the full list of databases that UDC students, faculty, and staff have access to. 

 

Broaden or narrow your research question.

If you have too many results, your research question might be too broad. Think about how you can make it more specific. If your research question is What is the impact of climate change?, consider adding more details about the who, what, and where of climate change. Try doing a quick brainstorm to identify some possible details.

If you integrate one or more of the whos, whats, or wheres that you brainstormed into your research question, you will end up with a narrower question. 

  • How is climate change affecting children’s health?
  • What are the business implications of climate change for oil companies?
  • How is climate change affecting farmers in Nigeria? 

If you have too few results, your research question might be too narrow. Think about how you can broaden it. Some of the details about the who, what, or where of your question might make your question too specific and you might not be able to find enough sources, if any. If your research question is What is the impact of climate change on cruise ship tourism in the Caribbean?, try What is the impact of climate change on Caribbean tourism?, or How is the cruise ship industry affected by climate change?

 

 

Get help from a librarian!  

UDC librarians are here to help! Librarians are available to help in person or via live chat during reference desk hours, or you can make an appointment to get help. You can also email the whole team of librarians at ask@udc.libanswers.com and someone will respond soon. We are trained in how to deal with research roadblocks and find ways to help you navigate through them.

 

This is normal.

When you run into research roadblocks like these, it's important to remember that this is a normal part of the research process. You are not failing. Research is an art and not a science. There are many ways to do things; you just need to test out what works for you.


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