EDEL 695: Educational Research for School Leaders (Isaac, Fall 2014)

last modified 2018-01-30T17:57:32-04:00

Note, this guide has not been updated to reflect the August 2015 introduction of the Discovery search tool

Welcome!  The purpose of this guide is to assist you with locating peer-reviewed articles for your article critiques.  Additional resources are available on the Education Subject Librarian page.  Remember to consult your syllabus to ensure that all the components of the two article critiques are included.  Your professor is the expert on the subject matter.  My goal as your Subject Librarian is to assist you with identifying, finding, citing, and managing information resources as you move along your journey and refer you to discipline-specific colleagues as appropriate.  You are not alone.  Please let me know how I can best assist you in identifying, finding, citing, and managing information resources.  I am available to work with you individually, in groups, or prepare additional guides or tutorials to assist you.  Feel free to contact me by phone at (478) 301-2031 or via e-mail at rhodes_tp@mercer.edu.

As evidenced by the extreme length of this one guide, there is a wealth of resources to learn---and eventually master.  In addition to this guide, check out our Guides & Tutorials page.  Some of these may not be viewable on all types of mobile devices.  Your professor included an example of a literature review from The Writer's Handbook at the University of Wisconsin.  I found this tutorial from NC State on literature reviews for graduate students.

The Jack Tarver Library also offers assistance, including:

Getting ready

Before searching, you should login to the library website.  Why?  Logging in authenticates you against the library's proxy server and authorizes you as a user.  Why do you care?  If you take the time to login before you search, you should not have to stop again to enter a password or your Mercer University ID (MUID).  You will use the same login and password to access My Mercer.

A separate log in is required later only 1) if you want to look at your library account, or 2) if you want to see any items stored in a personal account (for example, articles in an EBSCO folder). 

A second tip before beginning your search is to brainstorm terms you want to search.  For example, for the topic of hazing in college sports, a list might include college sports, sports teams, college athletics, initiation rites, and hazing.  Creating a list before you get started can save you considerable time later.  Since you need to find a diverse collection of articles, go ahead and include such terms as quantitative study, qualitative study, meta-analysis, and empirical study on your list.

You have at least three options when searching for articles:

1) You can go directly to specific journals themselves--means that you have to know which journals might have articles and then look through each issue where you may or may not find an article

2) You can go to Google--but the chances are not as high that you will find the scholarly references that are required for your assignment or you may not think you have to pay to read them if you don't go through the library's path (be sure to read about logging in first!)

3) You can go to a database where you can search literally thousands of journals using the terms you have identified.

All three of these options can work, but Option 3, using library databases to search is your best bet to quickly find the articles your need and spend more time analyzing than searching.

Choosing a database:

The database you search will depend on your topic, and you may need to search several databases as you look for your two articles.  Tarver Librarians have created Subject Librarian pages for every major and minor offered at Mercer.  This is an Education class, so selecting Education databases is a good place to start.  If one database isn't working for you, don't hesitate to try another one or to ask for help.  We do this for a living here at Tarver, and we are here to help you!

Recommended databases include:

Education Full Text (EBSCO) — this resource includes abstracting and indexing of 534 sources and page images and full text from 251 sources.  Topics include a wide range of contemporary education issues, including government funding, instructional media, multicultural education, religious education, student counseling, competency-based education, and information technology.

Academic Search Complete (EBSCO) — this multidisciplinary database provides abstracts and indexing for over 3,800, as well as full text for over 3,200 scholarly journals and general magazines.

PsycINFO (EBSCO) — this subject-specific resource contains citations and summaries of journal articles, book chapters, books, and technical reports, as well as citations to dissertations, in the field of psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines.  Journal coverage includes international material selected from more than 1,700 periodicals from nearly 50 countries.

ERIC (EBSCO) — this database covers all aspects of education and educational research, includes both abstracts of published and unpublished sources on thousands of educational topics.  It corresponds to the printed indexes of RIE (Resources in Education) and CIJE (Current Index to Journals in Education).

Education Journals (Proquest) — this resource covers not only the literature on primary, secondary, and higher education but also special education, home schooling, adult education, and hundreds of related topics.

Tip: In addition to using the Subject Librarian pages, you can select a database from the box in the upper left-hand side of the library website.  You can browse the databases by title, by subject, or view all:


Search tips
  • use and with your search terms to narrow your results
  • use or with your search terms to broaden your results
  • use quotation marks to search an exact phrase
  • limit your search to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals
    • terms  may vary between databases, PsycINFO uses Peer Reviewed Journal
    • why limit later and read articles that you cannot include in your assignment?
  • consider limiting your search to the last ten years
    • while your topic might dictate using a few older articles, it makes more sense to limit now
    • you can always update your search later to expand the date range

  •  EBSCO databases include a SmartText search option that summarizes text entered to the most relevant search terms then conducts search (Note: this may return more items than you want but is sometimes an effective way to broaden a search.)
  • The size of the search box increases so that you can add more information.

  • In addition to using terms/keywords that describe your topic, consider using terms like quantitative, qualitative, or hybrid research as keyword terms or statistical procedures, or qualitative techniques
    to identify articles with research components.
  • EBSCO databases include an option to search by Subject Terms (Academic Search Complete) or Thesaurus (Education Full Text, ERIC, and PsycINFO).  These are an insider's guide to the words and phrases that indexers assign to the actual articles.  These are good places to look for additional search terms for your topic.
    • Be sure to click on Subject Terms or Thesaurus in the blue bar at the top when selecting this search option.
    • Selecting the option relevancy ranked is often more helpful than term begins with or term contains.
    • It is possible to also select terms and add them to a search from this search option.

  • PsycINFO allows you to select specific audiences and methodology in addition to your search terms.  It is important to begin as broadly as possible and apply these options to narrow a search.  Being too specific initially may result in a search with no results.
  • Proquest Education Journals allows you to select specific document types, including literature review.  This database also provides search terms if your original search returns zero results.
  • ERIC includes two sources:  Documents (ED) and Journal Articles (EJ)  be sure and limit your search to the journal articles


  • Searching for articles is just the first step.  Using some of the tips above may leave you more time to review the articles carefully to make sure that you are collecting qualitative, quantitative, and multiple method studies.
  • Look at the subject headings and keywords for the articles.  This is yet another good source of other search terms.
  • Clicking on an article title may take you to a detailed record.  Here you want to pay close attention to the breakdown of the actual article, especially links to the literature review (sometimes labeled, review of current literature or related literature), methods, and referencesNote: not all results will include this detailed record.


  • Pay close attention to Literature Reviews and References.  If you find one article right on target, take the time to look at the sources listed in the literature review and references.  While you may not want to use all of these, this author has already identified important works on the topic.
  • Databases also provide options for printing, e-mailing, saving, and citing articles.  Place items in a folder, go to the folder, and look at the toolbar on the right-hand side of the page.

    • You can even select to check the APA citation format for articles when e-mailing them. 

  • Note:  be sure to review this format supplied by the database to make sure that it matches what your professor expects.

Finding articles
  • Many of the results include icons that you can click to see either the PDF or HTML full text of the actual article.

  • Other databases might also include a linked full text icon.

  • A new icon might appear now that the University Libraries has a link resolver!  The library has developed a written guide for finding full-text articles and a video tutorial.  The library has many ways you can ask for help, including IM, text, e-mail, and in person at the Reference Desk.  This is what we do for a living, so ask for help rather than spinning your wheels!
  • You may also need to order a copy of an article from another library using Interlibrary Loan.  This takes time, so plan ahead!  Copies of journal articles usually arrive quicker than books--often in less than five days and delivered by e-mail straight to your desktop.

Managing articles--Zotero
  • If you have not realized it already, you will be accumulating a lot of information as you prepare for and then write your dissertation.  Now is the time to consider carefully the best way to organize and manage that information.  Tarver Library recommends a software program called Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") that collects, manages, and cites research sources.  It is easy to use, lives in your web browser where you do your work, and best of all it is free.  Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies.  It automatically updates itself periodically to work with new online sources and new bibliographic styles.  Zotero offers an add-in for Microsoft Word and LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and NeoOffice, which makes inserting and formatting citations easy as pie.  Currently, Zotero is available as a Firefox add-on, and as Standalone software that interacts with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.  Zotero DOES NOT work with Internet Explorer.  Developers at Zotero are working on making a version compatible with Internet Explorer, but it is probably not happening soon.
  • Tarver Librarians have created several written guides and tutorials.  Look at these, and let us know if you need more help.

    If you prefer a video tutorial, these are available.  These require Flash and may not be viewable on all devices:

Citing articles

As a member of the academic community, you have responsibilities.  First, as a Mercerian, you are bound by the code of academic conduct and the honor code.  A specific emphasis is the importance of giving credit where it is due to avoid any appearance of plagiarism.  Mercer defines plagiarism as "... the use of ideas, facts, phrases, quotations, reproductions, or additional information, such as charts or maps, from any source without giving proper credit to the original author.  Failure to reference any such material used is both ethically and legally improper."  (http://education.mercer.edu/current/honor-code/).  Consequences for any infraction of the Statement of Ethics, the Honor Code, and/or the Georgia Professional Code of Ethics are severe, and could include dismissal from Mercer's Professional Education Program in the Tift College of Education.

Second, you are now participating in a conversation taking place around a particular topic with other experts.  This idea of scholars connected in a conversation comes from Leslie Stebbins work, Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age:  How to locate and Evaluate Information Sources.  According to Stebbins (2006), "Knowledge-building is an ongoing, interconnected process, and research involves tapping into the grapevine of scholarly debate about a topic and making sure you uncover all the key contributing voices." p. 11.

Finally, on a more personal level, you want to give credit because you want others to provide the same level of respect and courtesy to you.  You want others to uncover and appropriately cite your contributions as part of the research conversation.

There are hundreds of different style manuals, and this guide begins to explain why there are so many different types.  Created and maintained by the American Psychological Association, the APA style manual is used by many social sciences because it is well suited to quantitative studies and analysis.  Learning this standardized format of citations used by fellow researchers is another benefit of membership within the academic community.

If you have not used this citation manual before, it can be confusing.  The following guides and tutorials are a sample of the resources available to help you learn your style manual.  The more you use the style, the more comfortable you will become, but it will take time!  Tarver Library has one copy of the printed APA style manual available for a two-hour checkout from the Circulation Desk.

  • Purdue OWL: APA Formatting and Style Guide
    The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University is one of the most used resources on using the APA citation style.  Links on the left margin lead you to specific information on Reference lists, in-text citations, and formatting.  You may find it helpful to look at their sample paper as you work on your own.  This paper may also be downloaded as a PDF document.
  • The Writer's Handbook: APA Documentation Guide
    The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison created this guide.  Links on the right margin lead to specific information parenthetical citations, Reference lists, format and heading, and usage and style.  The Writing Center also provides this PDF handout on common APA guidelines.
  • The Basics of APA Style
    The American Psychological Association created this tutorial for those with no previous knowledge in using the style manual.  You will need to click on a link within this URL to start the tutorial.  This page also provides links to quick answers on References and formatting.