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Education Research Guide: Search Strategies

A guide to information and resources in education. Please ask a librarian if you want additional assistance with your research.

The Research Process

As you learn about and employ specific research strategies keep some more general concepts in mind.


  • is a process that requires time, effort, and persistence.
  • increases your research abilities as well as your knowledge of your topic.
  • may challenge your preconceptions about a topic.

Consult Multiple Sources

Using multiple sources allows you to:

  • Compare sources to evaluate the accuracy of their information.
  • Find information on different aspects of your topic.
  • Compare interpretations from different authors, organizations, or fields.
  • Make up for weaknesses of different source types.
  • Find enough information for your analysis of the topic.

Database Search Options

Most databases offer tools to help you retrieve relevant information. Look for limiting options (date, type of publication, etc.) before and after conducting a search.

For more information consult the Database Features page of the library's Research 101 Guide.

Generating Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your research topic. They are used to search for information in the catalog or in databases. When searching for information, you want to employ a variety of search terms because there are multiple ways of describing the same topic.

Start with a question that summarizes and focuses your research topic and identify key concepts associated with the question. Then, generate a list of synonyms and related terms. 

Example: "How can educators implement service learning in rural schools?"

Identity synonyms for key concepts.

educators             service learning      rural schools 
teachers community service     remote institutions
administrators civic engagement nonurban   academies

agricultural areas     

Identify related concepts: education, policies, procedures, applied learning, projects, student engagement, staff time, community support, community needs

Research 101 Guide

Consult the library's Research 101 Guide for more information on searching. Topics include:

Boolean Operators
Tools to use in combination with your search terms to narrow or broaden your search.

Subject Terms
Terms assigned to sources by catalogers, conducive to more precise searching.

Mining Reference Lists
Find out if the library owns sources cited in a source's reference list.

Citation Searching
Find out who is citing a source after it is published.

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