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This guide provides quick access to resources for conducting education research.

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Basic Research Steps

Research databases are tools for finding the articles you need. They do the following:

  • Index the journal articles of a specific subject area
  • Allow for searching by keywords and, in the sciences and clinical fields, by formal subject terms (controlled vocabulary)
  • Allow for combining terms using logical operators to get more relevant results offer ways to limit to further customize results
  • Link to a copy of the identified e-journal article or provide information on obtaining a copy
  • Give output options including printing, emailing, downloading, or "exporting" results (to RefWorks for example)

The Research Process:

  • Identify and Develop your Topic - Use books, journal articles and websites from your discipline to find interesting and relevant concepts that you want to explore further. Talk to professors to discover current issues and new research in your field. Consider the multiple perspectives on your topic.
  • Search the Online Catalog (WebPAC) to Find Books and other Resources on Your Topic  - Use WebPAC, the Widener University Library to find books on your topic that are available in the library. You can also search WebPAC for  journal titles, ebooks, videos, DVDs and CDs that the library owns.
  • Search Online Subscription Databases to Find Journal Articles and Other Scholarly Materials on your Topic  - Use Wolfgram Library Databases to find scholarly articles, ebooks, book chapters, streaming videos, and more about your topic. You can also obtain access to dissertations and Newspaper Articles from the databases. Browse the A to Z Database list to find the best database for your topic.
  • Find and Evaluate Internet Resources on Your Topic - If you use the internet to find useful, authoritative web resources on your topic,  make sure to evaluate each site that you find to ensure that the information in reliable and valid.
  • Cite Your Sources - Create accurate and complete citations for each resource used in a research paper by using the citation style required by your professor.

Click on The Research Process for more help!

Cited Reference Searching

What is cited reference searching?

Cited references are the articles, books or other materials listed in a bibliography or as works cited in a particular publication. Because citation databases index each reference, it is possible to search these cited references. One can follow a particular cited reference, or cited author, forward in time to find more current articles that have also cited that author or work.

Why use cited reference searching?

  • To locate current research based on earlier research
  • To find out how often and where a publication is being cited
  • To find out who is citing a particular paper
  • To find out how a particular research topic is being used to support other research
  • To track the history of a researcher or a research idea
  • To determine how well your own published research is cited for promotion/tenure considerations

How do I find resources that allow for cited reference searching?

Go to A-Z Database List, select Indexed from the All Database Types dropdown, see example .

Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources

(Refereed, Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles
(Popular) Journal Articles

Scholarly articles are "peer-reviewed" by other experts in the field. Are also sometimes called "refereed articles."

Non-scholarly articles are meant to inform or entertain readers rather than provide in-depth analysis.
Content Content of articles usually reports on original research or experimentation. Content of articles often reports on other research or events rather than presenting original research.
Bibliography Articles usually list references in footnotes or endnotes. Articles are seldom footnoted and the source of information is seldom given.
Illustrations Illustrations, if any, are usually graphs and charts that support the subject content. Often are illustrated with glossy or color photographs.
Author(s) Articles are written by experts in the field. Authors are usually on the staff of the magazine or are freelance writers. Author's name is often not supplied
Length/Depth Articles are generally long and contain in-depth coverage of the topic. Articles are often short and intended to provide an overview of a topic rather than an in-depth analysis.
Advertising Contain few if any advertisements. Usually contain many advertisements.
Publisher Frequently, articles are published by a scholarly professional organization (e.g. American Chemical Society, American Psychological Association). Publishers are marketing to the general public and usually make their publications available in stores and newsstands.
Language Authors write in the language of their discipline. Readers are assumed to have some knowledge of the field. Articles are directed towards the general public and written in non-technical language.


Types of Sources

Access Tools

Access tools help locate primary and secondary sources. Some types of access tools are:

Databases Bibliographies
Subject Guides Online Catalogs
Subject Directories Search Engines


Examples of Access Tools:

  • ERIC - index of educational research
  • WebPAC - online catalog
  • - search engine

There are three types of sources used in research: Primary, Secondary and Access Tools.

Primary Sources

A primary source is a firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. Primary sources are written or created during the time period being studied, or by a person directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event or time period. Some types of primary sources are:

Original Documents Creative Works Artifacts
Diaries Novels Jewelry
Speeches Music Tools
Letters Films Pottery
Meeting Minutes Visual Art Clothing
Interviews Poetry Buildings
Research Data Performing Arts Furniture
Autobiographies Film Footage

Examples of Primary Sources:

  • Diary of Ann Frank - experience of Jews in World War II
  • The Declaration of Independence - United States History
  • Arrowheads and pottery - Native American history

Secondary Sources

A Secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the primary sources. Some types of secondary sources are:

Textbooks Journal Articles Commentaries
Bibliographies Criticism Histories
Encyclopedias Book Reviews  

Examples of Secondary Sources:

  • Thomas Jefferson: A Life - a biography of Thomas Jefferson
  • The Encyclopedia of Education - brief treatments of educational topic
  • Introduction to Psychology - Psychology textbook