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Education (Research Resources): How to search periodical databases effectively

HOW TO... (Quick Help Index)

Design and enter a search query

 Design an effective search query in 3 easy steps

  1.  Identify the major components (important concepts/ideas) of your topic question
  2.  Identify alternate terms for each major component
  3.  Identify appropriate  connector words

 

See sample search queries and how to limit a query to research studies, opinions, legal cases, teaching strategies and more

 

Choose databases and enter query.

Analyze and Improve Results (almost all searches can be improved)

 ThumbnailScan through 2 or 3 pages of results to determine relevance. Check whether your results include a very large number (usually more than 300) OR very small number (usually LESS THAN 100) of truly relevant items.  If so, this is one signal to modify your search query.
Modify  query

 
Thumbnail Check that you searched all 3 recommended databases 
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    Check your spelling.
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 Limit by date (may be useful for identifying primary sources)

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Identify alternate terms to add or substitute in your search query.  Try all of the following:

See:

  • a database Thesaurus (copy terms from Thesaurus to your Advanced Search screen).
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    Add or drop out one or more components of your search query. 
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If you are looking for a specific type of content (history, statistics, beliefs, legal cases, research studies), use the sample search queries as models for your own search.

Thumbnail Try quotation marks around words you want to keep together, for example, "reading disabilities."  Also try without quotation marks.

Improve quality

of items found

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    Limit items to peer-reviewed articles. You may limit to peer-reviewed items before or during your search (during is recommended so that you get a more complete picture of what is available on your topic).
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Identify whether an article has been cited by other authors because this may be an indication that it is a significant or controversial work and one you might not want to miss.

Obtain full text

If no full text link appears, click on icon and see your options. For full text of references cited within an article click on Cited References link.

Save citations in APA format

Email or print your citations in APA format. See how.

Special Features of Databases

  Reactivate/ save /automatically update search queries and results

  • Save your search results to an online folder temporarily during search session or  long-term:
    • for long-term folder, click on 'Sign-In' tab on top right of screens in EBSCO recommended databases
    • OR if you don't want to save to a permanent folder, copy Permalink(s) for successful searches and save these in a word file or in an email to yourself to use at a later date.

  • Quickly return to an earlier search during your search session by clicking on  'Search History' link under search boxes in EBSCO recommended databases.

  • Sign up for automated search updates: see RSS option (under 'Alert, Save Share' link on your search results page in EBSCO recommended databases).

 

Alert, Save, Share Link

Design and Enter Search Query

Design and Enter Search Queries

 

HOW TO DESIGN AND ENTER SEARCH QUERIES

 

Design in 3 steps   

  1. Identify the major components (important concepts/ideas) of your topic question(s) 
  2. Identify alternate terms for each major component  
  3. Identify appropriate connector words

Enter query correctly into database search boxes   


 

1. Identify MAJOR COMPONENTS

 

Sample question: "What effect does/did being a member of a minority group have on students' academic achievement?"

 

Avoid 'noise' words! How to choose words as major components: 

 

If you were to include words like "what" or 'effect' or 'being' as major components for the above sample question, this would  be too limiting because there may be many relevant items about the topic that do not include these words (the word 'effect' may occasionally be useful for some topics but most often it is not).

Another example: "What were Jefferson's ideas about education in a democracy?"  The word 'ideas' in this question is a 'noise' word because it is vague and there may be many relevant items about this topic that do not include the word, 'ideas.'

 IF IN DOUBT, TRY YOUR SEARCH WITH AND WITHOUT A 'NOISE' WORD.

 

 

  IDENTIFY ALTERNATE TERMS  

See:

  • a database Thesaurus (copy terms from Thesaurus to your Advanced Search screen).

 

 


 

 

3. Identify CONNECTOR WORDS



HOW TO ENTER SEARCH QUERIES INTO DATABASE
 
 See first: How to enter major components

How to enter queries with alternate terms

 Limit a query to sources that contain or discuss research studies (all types)  and empirical research studies only

Limit a query to sources that discuss the history of a topic

Limit a search to sources that contain teaching/learning strategies or methods

Limit a query to sources that discuss beliefs, values, philosophies related to education

Limit a query to sources that include or discuss statistics related to education

Limit a query to the text of legal cases

 


 

 HOW TO ENTER MAJOR components

EXAMPLE 1 illustrates how to enter major components (order doesn't matter).

 

EXAMPLE 2 includes ALTERNATE TERMS for some major components

 

EXAMPLE 3 is a narrower search than the one above because the quotation marks require that the words academic achievement appear side by side in all items found. This could exclude some relevant items that don't include the words side by side; on the other hand, it could help to focus a search that includes many irrelevant items.

 

EXAMPLE 4 The search below adds another component to further refine a search by school level.

 

 

limit a search to sources that contain or discuss research studies on a topic

 

Also see examples for empirical research studies 


limit a search to sources that discuss the history of a topic

 


 

limit a search to VALUES, BELIEFS, PHILOSOPHIES


LIMIT A SEARCH TO TEACHING/LEARNING STRATEGIES or METHODS

 

limit a search to statistics  

Sample search question: 'How many elementary school children in the United States today are raised in or practice a religion or attend religious services?"


 

LIMIT A SEARCH TO TEXT OF LEGAL CASES in LexisNexis Database

Screen 1 of 2

 

EMPIRICAL RESEARCH STUDIES SEARCHES


Ebsco databases also see example for PsycINFO below

 

 

PsycINFO database

 

 

CHOOSE DATABASES

For journal articles of all types related to education

You may search the 3 recommended databases below simultaneously: Click on any one of the 3 databases, then click on the tiny 'Choose databases' link that appears above the search boxes and select the remaining 2 recommended database(s) from the long list that appears on the screen.

For research studies only

  • Search for your topic in the 3 recommended Ebsco databases above and use the following examples: limit to research studies (all types) or the empirical research studies only. CAUTION: Not all empirical studies will be found by limiting your search as in the examples; also try your search without limiting to only empirical studies and scan items found carefully to determine if they are empirical.
  • Add Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database to your search of the above 3 EBSCO databases (or search it separately). You will find this database listed under the Choose Databases link on your Ebsco search screen.
  • Search for your topic in  PsycInfo  See search example.

For news about education

  • Search Newspaper Source Plus simultaneously with the Ebsco databases or separately; you will find it listed under the Choose Databases link on your Ebsco search screen. 
  • MORE NEWS SOURCES

More databases for education research