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Not Finding the Right Sources? Time to Synthesize!

by Sara Hull on 2023-11-13T15:17:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

Sometimes searching the library turns up exactly the right articles on the first try; other times...not so much.


Often, when you are not finding what you want or need, experimenting with keywords and how you combine them is the answer to the problem. Other times, there simply are no articles on that topic. This can happen when your topic is very specific, when it combines concepts from a variety of disciplines, or when nobody has thought to research and write about that particular subject yet.


The good news about topics like this: they make great subjects for your thesis or dissertation! They do, however, require a little extra legwork. Someone researching a Jungian approach to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves might not get more than one relevant result out of seven (see below; not a great results count!) from the OneSearch tool on the library home page.


Screenshot of OneSearch results page with keyword combination Jung AND "Snow White" in the search bar and the one relevant result.














There are three primary ways to handle this lack of results:

  1. look at the references listed in the relevant article to see if any of the cited sources will be useful in your own research, then track those sources down,  (a.k.a. citation chaining)
  2. search tools outside our library, such as Google Scholar, and track down those sources elsewhere, and
  3. search our library (or elsewhere) for sources on the two components of this topic separately and then synthesize the information in them as it applies to your topic.


In this example, you could try searching for Jung's thoughts on fairy tales in general, or something more specific but still relevant to Snow White. The search combination below yields 122 results. At this stage, you would scan those titles and abstracts and decide which might be applicable to your paper on Snow White. [Note: I used "Jungian" in the search below to eliminate irrelevant articles by other writers named Jung.]


Screenshot of OneSearch results page with keyword combination Jungian AND fairy tales in the search bar.














With that done, you could now do a close reading of one or more versions of the Snow White fairy tale and apply what you've read in the articles you found on Jung. Or you could search for sources on Snow White that relate to whichever aspect of the Jung articles caught your interest. For example, "Snow White" AND feminine archetypes, "Snow White" AND beauty, "Snow White AND psychoanalysis, "Snow White" AND gender roles, and so on.


With readings on Jung and readings on Snow White in hand, it's quite possible to make some very interesting connections between the two separate components of this topic without ever finding a single article that examines both simultaneously. Synthesis is the process of making these connections between sources. As always, if you have questions about how to apply these principles, or about how to think through your keyword combinations and strategy, don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian.

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