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JHP 3151: Comparative Genocide in the Twentieth Century: Troubleshooting: I'm Not Finding What I Want

1. Consider Your Search Strategy

Remember that research often involves searching multiple places using different combinations of keywords and advanced search techniques. In thinking of your search strategy, ask yourself the following:

  • Where have I already searched for results? Are there databases and places to search I am overlooking?
  • What keywords have I been searching? Are there synonyms or related concepts I can try to get better results?
  • Have I been too restrictive anywhere? Such as too may keywords at once or adding too many filters?

If you have already found a source that looks relevant, you can use it to find other sources by:

  • Seeing if there are other keywords or subject terms associated with the source that you haven't searched
  • If it's an article, searching the journal it is located in for other relevant articles
  • Looking at the article's references to see if there are any source it cites that might be useful
  • Using Google Scholar to see who has cited the source, if possible, which can help point to more relevant material

2. Revisit Your Topic and Research Question

If you feel you've search to the best of your ability and are still either not coming up with relevant sources or not finding enough to create a paper from, you may need to revisit your topic and/or research question.

Consider the following:

  • Is my research question written in a way to only elicit a single or linear response? Can I expand my question to make sure I am encountering and incorporating multiple perspectives and angles?
  • Is my research question too narrow in focus? Am I putting too many restrictions on exactly what I am looking for?
  • Am I only trying to find sources that reaffirm my ideas and viewpoints and therefore biasing my search in any way?
  • Am I writing about something that has only become relevant in the last year or two? Remember research has to go through a process to get published. Therefore enough time might not have passed to get peer-reviewed or quality items. Consider if newspaper and other media types would serve your information needs.
  • Can I break the topic down into parts to search independently and weave together in my paper?

Even with all the information available, there are still niche topics or gaps in research that haven't been thoroughly explored. Or the conversation might be happening in nontraditional spaces such as forums or professional blogs. If you are struggling to find sources, don't hesitate to schedule a RAP session with a librarian for help.

3. Get Help

In addition to consulting with your professor on your topic, you can also schedule a one-on-one consultation with a librarian to help make sure you have covered all your bases in trying to find sources!