Narrowing Choices When It Comes to Sources

The Monday Motivator yesterday talked about narrowing down choices in life as a way of increasing happiness. But the same is also true when conducting research. When I was in high school, I could occasionally get away with telling my teacher that I couldn’t find enough sources. Now, if a student used that excuse, he or she would be laughed out of the room. For example, a search on “depression” in Academic Search Premier brings up 87,917 hits. Pretty overwhelming, isn’t it?  So how do you narrow down your sources so that you can get what you need.  There are some quick and easy tips that will help:

  • Know your databases.  If you are doing a literature or philosophy search, you might decide to start with JSTOR or Literature Research Center. WilsonWeb has a business database. By starting with the most likely database for your topic, you can narrow down your search. If it’s too narrow, you can go and search one of the larger, multidisciplinary databases.
  • Limit your search options. Remember that 87,917 hits in AcademicSearch Premier? Well, if you choose the following search options:
    • Full Text
    • Scholarly Journals
    • Limit the date to those articles after 2004

Then suddenly you’re down to 16,760. Still a lot. So let’s go to our next step.

  • Narrow down your search terms. Let’s say that your study on depression only involves the elderly. Now you’re down to 823.
    • But perhaps you can go another step. You’re only interested in depression and older men. Now we’re down to 58.
    • And the final step: Take a look at the summaries and abstracts. See if the information is what you need. Only then do you have to read the entire article.

Remember it’s not the number of sources that count. It’s the quality!

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