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LIT 530: Fall 2020

What this section covers

Where to search

These three subscription databases are the best ones to search for education-related articles. ERIC & Education Source have the same interface (EBSCOHost), so they will look exactly the same. Education Database is a Proquest database and will look a little different, but overall it should be pretty similar to the other two databases in appearance.  

Refining & adjust your search

You'll need to make a few adjustments to your search.

First, there's no such thing as a perfect search - you will likely need to try a few different combinations of keywords in order to find good results. We're going to discuss two methods for coming up with additional keywords and phrases:

Second, you will need to use database limiters to meet some of the requirements of the assignment. Database limiters limit or reduce the number of results you get. The two limiters we'll focus on are:

A few other search tips you might find handy: 

  • Getting too many results, or irrelevant results? Try searching for an exact phrase by putting it in quotes. (ex. "adolescent literacy" vs. adolescent literacy)
  • Getting too few results? Consider alternative words or spellings (ex. I found more results when I searched for "communities of practice" than I did when I searched for "community of practice").

Finding Additional Keywords & Phrases

Using Autocomplete Suggestions

The screenshot below is from Education Source. I recommend that you put one concept in each search box, like I did here: 

As you can see in the last box, the autocomplete has offered several useful suggestions. I've chosen "grades or academic performance or academic achievement" in the search below.

Using subject headings

My initial search only retrieved 17 results, so I'm going to look at the articles' subjects for ideas on how I can get more results: 

Result #5 looks the most relevant, since it talks about academic outcomes. Looking over the subject headings, there are a few that we might want to try searching for: 

  • Luncheons (since it's the closest to our actual search)
  • Other Individual and Family Services (this concept and the concepts below are broader than just school lunches, but they might help us find more useful information) 
  • Emergency and Other Relief Services
  • Health and Welfare Funds
  • Public Welfare 

Even though #4 isn't quite what we're looking for, there are some good subjects listed here, which might be a bit closer to our example topic: 

  • Luncheons
  • Mobile food services
  • Breakfasts
  • Food service

TIP: Mix and match the concepts you come up with - you'll likely do several different searches. Again, this is a normal part of the search process!

Using both techniques above, I found a combination of search terms that turned out to be very helpful. I would never have predicted "mobile food services" would be a helpful thing to search for!

You can also see that this search brought up 108 results, so it's likely there are some additional good results to be found.

Using database limiters

Limiters are fairly simple to use - they are usually just checkboxes (like the peer-reviewed journal limiter in both images below) or other simple adjustments (like the date sliders in EBSCOHost).

In Education Source and ERIC, the limiters are to the left of the search results. 

Ebsco database limiters

The screenshot here shows where these limiters are in Education Database.

Proquest database limiters

Interpreting your results

Diagram illustrating the following statement.

All research-based articles are peer-reviewed, but not all peer-reviewed journals are research-based. (Need a refresher on what makes a journal scholarly?)

So, how can I tell if an article is research-based?

There are a number of ways you can find research articles and literature reviews:

  • Look at the journal title

    Some journals are dedicated to research studies only. If the journal title has "research" in it, then it's a good bet that most (or all) of the articles in that journal are research articles.

    If you're looking at results in ERIC or Education Source, you'll see the journal title below the article title (see the green highlighted text). There are also some research journals are listed above - like Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

  • Look at the article title 

    Many times the article title itself will give you a hint as to its content. You're looking for the following types of articles:

    • Research-based (an experiment or study) - These types of articles will use words like effects, analysis, examining, etc.

    • Literature review (a summary of existing research) - These types of articles will use words like systematic review, meta-analysis, review of the literature, etc.

    You can see some examples highlighted in pink in the image below. 

  • Look at the subject headings

    The subject terms underneath the article title often say things like "research", "qualitative research", "literature reviews", etc. If you see mentions of statistics, methodology, surveys, comparisons, etc. - these subjects generally indicate that you've found a research study.

    You can see some examples highlighted in purple in the image below. 

  • Look for tables and charts

    An article that contains tables, charts, and graphs is likely a research article. These graphics generally outline parts of the methodology (usually tables) or they are part of the analysis of the data (the charts and graphs).

    In Education Combo, they will often show you thumbnails of their charts, etc. You can see some examples highlighted in yellow below.

Screenshot of search results with various aspects highlighted

Reading scholarly journal articles

For this assignment, you don't really have to read the articles you find, but you will need to do so for the Critical Review of Literature assignment. This guide on how to read a scholarly journal article might be helpful!

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