Answered By: Wendy Hardenberg
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2017     Views: 29

Whether you're using SouthernSearch, a library database, or Google, if you get no results or irrelevant results, the key is to simplify what you're asking for until you can figure out what language will get you more.

Let's say you searched for "What are the pros and cons of social media?" That means the search engine is going to go looking for the word "what" and the word "are" and the word "the"... you see where this is going. Even if there are plenty of sources that discuss the pros and cons of social media, if they don't use your exact language, you might never see them. Google is often more forgiving of things like this than library databases, but your first results will still probably be webpages that repeat your question word for word, and Q&A-type sources tend to be less sophisticated, less academic, and less likely to tell you where they got their information.

So if you want to know the pros and cons of social media, think about typing (pro* or con*) and "social media" instead and see what happens. You could even just say "social media" all by itself and see what's out there before cluttering things up with words that appear in every document in the English language.

If you find yourself getting frustrated, though, you can make an appointment with a librarian to figure out what's going wrong.