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EPRS 7900 Methods of Research in Education: Finding Articles

Search Tips

Two of the most common search strategy options:

  • Use quotations to "search a phrase"
  • Use the star sign to truncate a word*

For example "Response to Intervention"  will search this term as a complete phrase.

education*  will search education OR educational

(Note that databases are not all searched the same way. You may need to consult the help section of your database to find out what types of features the database supports.)

Boolean Searching (Using AND, OR, NOT)

Most searches require more than one word or concept. Here's how to connect your search terms with Boolean operators:

Use the word AND (in all caps) to connect keywords and narrow your search:

Education AND Politics

Use the word OR (in all caps) to broaden your search. “OR” is often used for synonyms.

Literacy OR Reading


Brainstorming keywords

Databases do not typically support natural language searching like you use in Google.  Thus, you must choose keywords or other search methods to construct your search.  When using keywords, choose one word or one concept per search box.


Finding the best keywords for your search requires brainstorming. Think about what you already know about your topic.  The content in your class or class readings may also trigger some ideas.  Keep up with your searches.  Most databases have a search history function, or just write them down.  This will make your searching more efficient.

You may want to try some brainstorming tools:

Mind mapping: Start with one or two words or concepts. Write them in the center of the page. Work outwards in all directions writing related words. Use shapes, circles, arrows, and other visuals to create boundaries and connections.

Free writing:  You can use free writing to come up with a topic or expand on a topic you already have in mind.  In fact, you can use it throughout the writiing process.  To free write, get some blank pieces of paper (or use a word processor) and write as fast as you can non-stop for a few minutes.  Try five minutes.  The point is to get the ideas flowing and not to judge what you are writing down.  Don't worry about grammar, spelling, or organizatin.  Just write.