Answered By: Sandy Marinaro
Last Updated: Aug 18, 2014     Views: 23

Electronic databases can’t tell what you are thinking. They simply search for the words and phrases you give them. Sometimes you get out-of-context results, sometimes you get too few results, sometimes you get too many results.

Here are some strategies for improving your searches:

Use Synonyms Examples
Think of a variety of words used to describe your concept. Databases search literally for the words you give them. In a recent search in Business Source Complete, the phrase “electronic commerce” found more than four times as many results as “e-commerce.”


electronic commerce

internet commerce

Use the Database’s Own Vocabulary Examples
Many of the library databases apply their own Subject Headings to articles. Look for these words, either in your search results as “Subjects” or as suggested topics for further searching.


Use instead: prisoners

Think Bigger or Smaller Examples

If your search is too specific, you may not get enough results. Or, if your search is too general, you may be overwhelmed. Think of ways to make your search broader or narrower.

computer crimes

internet fraud