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SPED 3355 - Educational Research in Special Education through a Cognitive Development Lens

A research guide to accompany the Critical Inquiry Report assignment for SPED 3355.

Developing Keywords

Developing Keywords

Prior to searching library databases, take a few minutes to consider which search terms or keywords best describe your topic. 

Sample Topic: The results of requiring high school students to take a foreign language.

Step 1 - Identify the main ideas - The results of requiring high school students to take a foreign language.

Step 2 - Brainstorm Broader, Related and Narrower Terms. Remember that scholarly articles are published by experts. Consider the language that an expert would use.

Results High School Students Foreign Language
Student Outcomes Adolescents Second Language Instruction
Evidence Secondary School Students Second Language Learning
Educational Benefits High School Freshmen   


Adjusting Your Topic

During the research process, you may discover that your topic needs to be adjusted based on the research available from 2010 to present. Here are a few examples:

  • Topic: Technology and Children
    • Problem: Not specific to education.
    • Solution: Try search terms (Elementary Educat* OR Elementary School) AND Technology
      • Found several articles on technology in math education.
    • New Topic: Using technology in math education for elementary students.
  • Topic: English as a Second Language (ESL) Students and Retention 
    • Problem: No relevant results
    • Solution: Adjust Search Terms, Use Narrower Terms
      • English as a Second Language = Bilingual Education, Adult Education, Adult Learners, English Language Learners
      • Improving Retention = Recall, Memory, Language Skill Attrition, Learning Retention
    • New Topic: Using mnemonic devices to improve the retention of language skills for ESL students.

Advanced Searching

Boolean Operators

Use the Boolean Operators AND, OR and NOT to create search statements to enter in databases, Spartan Search, Google, etc.

Peanut Butter AND Jelly: only results with both peanut butter and jelly; Peanut Butter OR Jelly: results with peanut butter, with jelly, and with both; Peanut Butter NOT Jelly, results with Peanut Butter only


  • College AND Technology AND Learning
  • (College OR Higher Education OR University) AND (Technology OR Computers) AND (Learning OR Instruction)
  • (Technology AND Learning AND Elementary ) NOT College



Wildcards allows you to search for multiple terms with the same root at once by using an asterisk. 


  • Educat* = Educate, Education, Educational, Educator
  • Child* = Child, Children, Childish


Phrase Searching

Search for exact phrases using quotation marks.


  • "higher education": returns results that contain the exact phrase "higher education"




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