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EES1201: Environmental Science: Approaches and Methods in Research

Workshop FAQs

How to search when you have a fairly new area of research and can't seem to find many hits for articles. Would you recommend refining the use of filters/looking for other articles/databases?

There are a couple strategies you can use to increase the likelihood of finding additional literature:

  • Search in more than one place (e.g. multiple databases, as different resources index different literature) -- this will cast a broader "net" into the research literature and reduces the likelihood that you're missing something important.
  • Use the Boolean operator OR to combine related ideas/synonyms (e.g. "electronic waste" OR "e-waste" OR "electronic scrap" OR "waste electrical and electronic equipment," etc. etc.) -- remember that OR is MORE: it is always going to increase your number of search results.
  • Consider removing AND-ed terms or loosen up your search filters -- both of these will decrease your total number of results, so removing any extraneous terms or filters can help open up the search again if it was too restrictive initially.
  • Check the article record of any relevant journal articles -- oftentimes there will be an author- and/or database-provided keywords section where you can scan for additional terminology to incorporate into your initial search.
  • Check reference lists as well as "Cited by" sections in both database and grey literature sources -- this is what we call citation chaining, i.e. looking forward and backward through references to find related literature.

When everything else has failed, it's also very possible that you could have a niche research topic with limited published literature on it! In cases like that, there's not much to be done aside from revising your topic to a related idea or broader scope to see if that yields more promising results. While frustrating, this is also a very normal part of literature searching!

If you're struggling to find literature on your topic, feel free to shoot me an email for a research consultation or stop by the Reference Desk at the front of the library and we'll see if we can give you a hand!

How to use the Zotero plug-in in Word?

Please see the "Using the Zotero Word Plugin" support page for more details.