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VTP 525: Ogwo

Searching in the right place

The first step to conducting effective searches is to know where to search. The library has hundreds of databases - these are the best ones to search for education research:

Elements of an Effective Search

Mastering search terms and search limiters can help you conduct more effective searches. 

  • Search terms are the words and phrases you search for.

  • Search limiters are things like language, date range, content type, and more. Search limiters will vary greatly depending on what kind of database or search tool you're using. 

Search Terms

Be as specific as possible

Generally, you'll get fewer, but more relevant articles the more specific you can be. For example, "adolescent literacy" is a better search phrase than just "literacy."

Use quotation marks

Sometimes, when you search for a phrase, you get a lot of results that contain the words in that phrase, but not a lot of results for the phrase itself. You can search for the exact phrase by putting it in quotation marks. Compare these two searches:

Search without quotation marks around the search terms
Search results for "adolescent literacy" without quotation marks

Search with quotation marks around the search terms
Search results for "adolescent literacy" with quotation marks

Use subject terms

When looking at your search results, keep an eye on the subject terms beneath each article title. This can help you:

  • Find articles more closely related to your topic
  • Find different types of research

Here's an example search result for "community of practice," with the subject terms highlighted:

Single search result, with subjects highlighted

If any of the subject terms look like good matches, you can revise your search to reflect them:

Revised search query, using subject terms

Consider alternative wordings or spellings

If your research topic has other names, search for those as well. Don't forget to consider small differences, too - for example, I found many more results searching for "communities of practice" than I did searching for "community of practice."

Search Limiters

Ebsco database limiters

Most of the databases you'll use are provided through EBSCOHost - here are a few helpful limiters I recommend using:

  1. Scholarly, peer-reviewed articles

  2. Publication date

Final Words...

Be patient, and be kind to yourself. Even good searches require you to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

There's only so much you can do with search terms and limiters...check out the next page for another way of finding quality publications. 

Ask a Librarian