Answered By: Lynn VanLeer
Last Updated: Jun 07, 2017     Views: 2326

Here are some common reasons you would get no or very few articles with a database search:

You have mistyped at least one keyword.

Databases yield results that match the exact keywords and/or phrases that typed in the search boxes.

Databases do not auto-correct misspellings or typos. Also consider British and American spellings.


You're not searching in a database that fits your topic.

Databases specialize in specific subject areas. For example, there are specific databases for nursing, education and business.  


You have typed too many words in the search boxes.

Try typing keywords for just one concept per search box. Avoid long phrases. 

Example topic: "How do high-school dropouts rate their self-efficacy?"

Break the topic into keywords: high school AND dropout AND self-efficacy

Type just these three concepts as keywords into the search boxes, like this:

database search boxes with one term per search box: high school AND dropouts AND self-efficacy

Try combining only 2-3 concepts as keywords in a search. If your topic contains more concepts, try breaking up your topic into several different searches to find sets of articles about different parts of the topic.

See our Keyword Searching Guide for more help with breaking up a topic into keywords.


You need to try different keywords.

Try brainstorming for synonyms and try searching with new keywords to describe your topic.

Example topic: "What motivates adult learners taking online courses?"

Break the topic into keywords. Maybe you don't get many results when you use the keyword phrase "adult learners."  Another way authors might say "adult learners" is "adult students." Add that phrase to your search instead and see if you get more results.

See our Keyword Searching Guide for more help with brainstorming synonyms.


Watch a video demonstrating how entering your keywords can drastically affect the number of results found.

Video: How to find more results

Video: Keyword Searching

(1 min 21 sec) Transcript 


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