Welcome to the SPED Research in Special Education LibGuide. The materials in this LibGuide were developed by Wade Lee-Smith in collaboration with the faculty in the Special Education programs of the Teacher Education department within the Judith Herb College of Education at the University of Toledo.
1. Break up your topic
Try to think of your topic as a combination of factors that will all come together in the ‘perfect’ article, rather than a single sentence.
Eliminate parts of the topic that are implied by the database (e.g., you don’t have to search ‘education’ or ‘students’ when everything in the database will relate.)
2. Cover all your options
Brainstorm different words or phrases that could be used for each part of the topic.
If the database has a thesaurus (i.e., ERIC), use the database functionality to help you find the right words.
If you do a simple search and find a few articles, look at the Subject Headings (or Descriptors) to see what words the database may use for your topic.
Remember to expand acronyms, for example: FERPA = Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
***Search for each part of the topic, combining synonyms or near-synonyms with OR.***
3. Put it all together
***Combine all parts of your topic (the ‘OR’ searches above) using AND to require that all parts are in everything that comes back.***
Didn’t get anything? Try leaving out the most specific or peripheral parts of the search… you may be breaking new ground!
In some databases (Education Research Complete, Google Scholar), you can search within the text of the article for your words… be prepared to get a lot!
Get too much? You can be more specific by looking at the database limits, for example, by publication year, type, grade level, language, audience, etc.
Still too much? You may need to add in more specific criteria, or you could try your search again using only the databases’ approved ‘Subject’ terminology.
4. clean up
Read abstracts to determine what is really relevant.
Store records (or add to your folder) so that you can e-mail the results to yourself… include the search history with your e-mail if possible.
Use the Find It @ UToledo to see what is available. If you come across the full text of an article, you can save it or print.
5. Follow up
If you find particularly good articles, be sure to follow up on their lists of references. Also, follow up on articles that may have cited your article using the Social Sciences Citation Index database.
You can search a wide variety of our research databases (including all three major education-related research databases discussed on this guide), plus library catalogs at University of Toeldo and OhioLINK using this search. One major database that is not included is the Proquest Dissertations & Theses database discussed elsewhere in this guide.