Library databases can be confusing. What you put into your search has an enormous impact on what you get out of it. Understanding and taking the time to implement some key features of database searching is essential in order to get at the best research on your topic. The tips below will help you get the most out of your literature search.
TOP 10 TIPS FOR SEARCHING THE EDUCATION LITERATURE
1. KEYWORDS MATTER! Brainstorm different keywords for each element of your search. Connect possibilities with “OR.”
2. ENCLOSE PHRASES IN QUOTATION MARKS to search the terms together and in that order (eg., “job satisfaction”)
3. USE THE CONNECTORS or Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT). Remember: AND narrows. OR broadens. NOT excludes.
4. TRUNCATE TERMS. Use the asterisk (*) to truncate words with many possible endings (e.g., teach* to search teacher, teaching, etc.)
5. FIELD SEARCHING. Notice that you have the option to search specific fields (e.g., title, abstract, subject, author, etc.). If you are getting too much, a title-only search is quite narrow but results tend to be more relevant.
6. HOW MANY RESULTS? Pay attention to the number of results. You want just a few a hundred or less with relevant titles.
7. USE THE LIMITERS. If your search is pulling too many results, use the limiters on the left hand side of your results to narrow to specific publications, source types, etc. Publication date is a particularly important consideration for education research.
8. READ THE ABSTRACT. You often don’t even have to go into the article record to read the abstract or article summary. This will save you time and help you identify relevant results.
9. CITING/CITED BY. When you find a good article, always look at the research they are citing (their reference list) AS WELL AS the articles which have cited them. Clicking the “cited by” link can help bring your research up-to-date.
10. SAVE YOUR SEARCH! When you arrive at a search that works, save the database link to it or set up e-mail updates to notify you when new research is published that matches your search criteria.