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Resources by Subject Basic Guide to Research for Education

A. Locating Background Information

You might browse some of our reference sourcesfor assistance in selecting and defining your topic. These sources can also provide useful background information on your topic to give you a better understanding of the various aspects of your topic. We have numerous subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other resources available in print and online.

Check the following call number areas in the Reference Collection for background information from sources such as subject encyclopedias:

L is Education

Depending on your topic, other subject areas, such as Psychology (BF), Social Sciences (HM-HX) or Medicine (R), may be helpful

For a more detailed breakdown of call number areas, see the Library of Congress classification schedule.

Some examples of reference books in the library are listed on the Education Subject page.

This only a small selection of materials from the Reference collection. To locate additional items, browse the Reference shelves or look in MaconCat.try a broad subject search such as "Education" and look for subheadings such as "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries."

Additionally, you can look at several of our education periodical publications for help in developing your topic.

B. Locating Periodical Articles

  1. Determine whether you should use scholarly materials whether you need primary sources.
    - How do you tell the difference between a scholarly journal from a popular one?
    - How do you tell the difference between a primary source and a secondary source?
  2. Formulate a search strategy.
    - Identify the important concepts of your search and choose the keywords that describe these concepts.
    - Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included. - Reference sources can help with this.
    - Determine which search features may apply, i.e., truncation, Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), etc.
  3. Use indexes and databases to locate scholarly journal and popular magazine articles.
    - Go to the Library's home page and click on Find Articles and choose Education from the subject list, or choose the database from the alphabetical list. 

    Education Research Complete (some full text; dates vary, mostly 1980s to present)
    Includes all areas of education and development from early childhood through higher education.

    ERIC (some full-text; 1966 to present)
    Covers education with research documents, articles, technical reports, program descriptions and evaluations, and curricular materials. There is full-text in this index for most ERIC Documents from 1993+. Check the library catalog for other materials. The majority of materials will be scholarly, although a very small number may not be.

    1. Journal articles may be available in full-text in another database if the library doesn't have it. Check the library's Journals A-Z list.
    2. If the Library doesn't own the material you need, you can inititiate an interlibrary loan request.

    C. Use the World Wide Web to get government documents, reports, opinions, and other publications on your topic.

    Use the Library's Find Resources by Subject links to be directed to quality web directories and reference sources.

    D. Critically evaluate the materials

    Not all information is good, valid information. Evaluation means that you need to look carefully at your information sources to determine whether the source is reliable and appropriate for your information need. You should always evaluate any information source you use. The seven key criteria for evaluating your sources are:

    Authority refers to the credentials of the author(s) and to the publisher of the information.
    Who wrote or compiled the information? Who published it and why?

    Currency refers to date of publication and the time period covered by the information.
    Is the publication current or historic? Does it matter?

    Accuracy refers to the overall reliability and correctness of the information.
    Are the facts and statistics correct and verifiable?

    Scope refers to the completeness of the coverage.
    Is the publication comprehensive or selective? What is the focus of the source? Is it relevant to your information need?

    Objectivity refers to the point of view taken in the material.
    Is there an obvious bias or does it appear to be relatively objective? Is the author simply providing factual information or expressing an opinion?

    Documentation refers to whether the material cites the sources of the information that is presented.
    Do the authors or editors include references or is the information compiled from unknown sources?

    Presentation refers to how the material is organized and supplemented.
    Are there good access points such as a table of contents or an index? Are there visual aids to enhance or explain the information?

    See the "Evaluating Your Sources" section of Writing Your Paper for additional information.

    E. Cite your resources properly

    Always use the style preferred by your professor or suggested by the major professional association or society in the field of study.

    As you write other papers, be aware that the four major citation styles are APA, Chicago, and MLA.. Copies of the guides for each style may be found at the Reference Desk.: Remember, if your read it from an online version, cite it as an online version.

    1. APA (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association - copy at Reference Desk
    2. Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style - call # REF Z253 .U69 2003)
    3. MLA (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers - call # REF LB2369 .G53 2003)
    4. Turabian (A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations call # REF LB2369 .T8 1996)

    See the "Citing Your Sources" section of Writing Your Paper for additional information.

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