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Research Essentials

Too Many Results?

Add additional keywords.

  •  In databases Subject Terms can help you identify more narrow topics and keywords.
  • Add AND between your keywords

Choose more narrow search terms

Broad topics tend to have a broad range of people writing about it. If you're finding too many articles related to your topic, consider narrowing down your focus and search for that narrower subtopic.  


  • Broader term: law
  • Narrower term: "environmental law"

Use limiters

You can limit your searching in two ways: by only searching specific fields or by limiting results by different facets, often found on the left hand side of the search results.

 Search fields like

  • title
  • abstract
  • author

Or use limiters on the side to refine by

  • publication date
  • format type
  • subject

In OneSearch, you can see options under Refine Search.

Search for a short phrase with quotation marks. 

Using quotation marks searches for that phrase as a single unit rather than two separate terms.  


  • "environmental law"
  • "environmental justice"

Too Few Results?

If your initial searches bring back no or few results, don't give up! Don't despair! Reassess your search strategy.

Possible Reasons

Choice of Search terms

Choosing the right search terms is key.

  • Experiment with related terms.
  • In databases Subject Terms can help you identify keywords.
  • Use OR to search for multiple related terms simultaneously. (e.g., policy OR law)

Too Many Search Terms

Database can be picky about search terms. Be selective.

  • Begin with one of two search terms that best represent your topic. Then add other terms as needed.
  • Avoid long phrases and empty words like “the” and “how.”

Too Many Limiters

If you limited the search (e.g., by date or search field) remove limiters and reassess.

Narrow Topic

Highly specific topics may be too narrow for finding results. Try a broader related topic first.

  • Narrow search: Bloomington Indiana AND environmental policy
  • Broader search: United States AND state government AND environmental policy

Database Choice

Different databases focus on different topics, so it could be that your search terms are well calibrated, but you're looking in the wrong place. View Resources by Subject or Ask a Librarian.