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SPE 304: Educational Planning for Students with Disabilities

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Your Assignment Says...

You will need to find one research article on your topic from a scholarly/peer-reviewed journal. The article should be recently published (i.e.: no more than 5 years since publication date). You will have to use the library indexes to find these articles. The articles must be research based; a literature review is acceptable. “Think-pieces,” opinion papers, and anecdotal accounts are not acceptable. 

Before You Start: What To Know

As you know, your assignment calls for a research-based article. Research-based articles are usually published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. (Need a refresher on what scholarly, peer-reviewed journals are?)

There are two article types (both are research-based) that you can use for this assignment:

  • Experiment- or study-based articles

    These types of articles will use words like effects, analysis, examining, etc. in their titles.

  • Literature review articles

    Literature reviews are summaries of existing research. These articles often use "systematic review", "meta-analysis", and "review of the literature" in their titles.

Look for evidence-based practices

Your professors and I encourage you to look for articles that talk about evidence-based practices. Evidence-based practices are essentially practices that have proven to be effective in multiple studies.

It might seem like a no-brainer to use evidence-based practices; we all want to do stuff that works, right? But believe it or not, many teachers use strategies that either (a) don’t have evidence to support them, or (b) have evidence showing they’re actually detrimental to learning. (Cook & Cook, 2013).

No luck? Try high-leverage practices

You might also find it helpful to look for articles that refer to high-leverage practices in special education (this link goes to a 1-page flyer). High-leverage practices are also based in research, but they're much more general than evidence-based practices. Evidence-based practices are generally content-area specific, and specific to a particular age group. High-leverage practices can be used across all content areas and age groups (McCray et al., 2017).

I don't think you'll have much luck searching for the phrase "high leverage practices", but you might have luck looking for some of the themes in the high-lever practices document - for example, collaboration or assessment.

Cook, B.G., & Cook, S.C. (2013). Unraveling evidence-based practices in special education. The Journal of Special Education, 47(2), 71-82.

McCray, E.D., Kamman, M., Brownell, M.T., & Robinson, S. (2017). High-leverage practices and evidence-based practices: A promising pair. Retrieved from

Where To Search

What To Search For

I recommend starting with:

  • Your disability or disability category
  • The phrase "evidence based practices" (you can try the variations listed in the screenshot below, as well)
  • The word "teaching" 

Refining Your Search: Get Recent Results

Each database should have a way for you to limit your search results by date range. Here's an example of how to limit your date range in Education Combo.

Troubleshooting Your Search

If you're having problems finding an article:

  • If you've selected a disability category, search for a subcategory or specific disability
    • Example: Let's say your topic is orthopedic impairment. You could search for neuromotor impairments (a subcategory) or cerebral palsy (a specific disability).
  • Search for a specific age group (ex. early childhood education)
  • Search for a specific subject or type of education (ex. physical education)
  • Try searching for concepts addressed in the high-leverage practices for special education
    • Example: Let's say your topic is emotional disturbances. You might focus on some of the high-leverage practices in the social / emotional / behavioral practices section - one of which is "Teach social behaviors." So, you might search for "emotional disturbances" and "social skills instruction."
  • Try searching another database
  •  If all else fails, get in touch with me or your professor!

Interpreting Your Results

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 Education Combo, you'll see the journal title below the article title (see the green highlighted text). 

  • Look at the article title 

    Many times the article title itself will give you a hint as to its content. As you know, 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 subjects - Education Combo only

    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

How should I read a scholarly article?

Check out our guide about how to read scholarly articles.

Found something in a works cited or references section?

Ask a Librarian