Once you have determined a topic, issue or subject of interest,you will usually need to spend some time exploring the research literature before finalizing your research question or focus. Some tips for doing so are:
Brainstorm about your topic. Identify related issues, people, events etc.
List what you already know about your topic, and what you need to know or want to know. How can your teaching experience inform your topic?
Determine what perspective will you take on your topic.
Deternine the geographic region on which you will focus.
Choose a specific time period.
Often doing some preliminary reading or background research is extremely helpful in developing a focus. Move to the next step for some tips.
Searching in Reference Books
You will find numerous reference sources in the UCB Libraries' collection, both online and in print. Use Reference Universe to search within the table of contents and indexes of reference books in our collection.
Reference Universe: This is a searchable database that indexes information from specialized subject encyclopedias. It does not include the full text of reference materials but will point you to reference sources that cover your topic. It searches both the titles of reference articles as well as the encyclopedia / dictionary indexes, providing a thorough level of access to materials and potential sources. CU
Finding Background Information
Developing a comprehensive understanding of your topic is essential when
embarking on research. One way to gain background information is to utilize
reference sources. This will help you to focus and concentrate your interest
in a researchable portion of your topic. For help developing background
The Encyclopedia of Evaluation is a who, what, where, how, and why
of evaluation. Evaluation is a profession, a practice, a discipline—and
it has developed and continues to develop through the ideas and
work of evaluators and evaluation theorists working in real places
with high hopes for social improvement. Each ...
Measurement and Statistics
It's an interesting paradox when an important subject, which can
help us make sense of our busy, everyday world, is considered very
difficult to approach. Such is the case with measurement and statistics.
However, this does not necessarily have to be the case, and we believe
that the Encyclopedia of ...
of Social Science Research Methods
These volumes comprise an encyclopedia of social science research
methods, the first of its kind. Uniqueness explains, at least partly,
why we undertook the project. It has never been done before. We
also believe that such an encyclopedia is needed. What is an encyclopedia?
In ancient Greek, the word signifies ...
Selecting and Finding Keywords
Before you start to research a topic, you need to develop keywords
that represent your research interest, question, or inquiry.
Keywords are significant words (usually nouns
or noun phrases) which can be used as search terms in online
catalogs or databases. Keywords will determine the quantity and relevance
of results you retrieve when searching.
First you will identify and articulate your topic
in your own words:
Example: I am interested in investigating the effectiveness of literacy assessments
used with second language learners.
Next you will designate the main concepts or ideas
that describe the topic:
second language learners
Then develop other terms and vocabulary that represent
the topic. Some terms may be broader, narrower, or synonyms. Adding
terms that represent geographical distincitions, time periods, or significant
figures about your topic may also be useful.
second language acquisition
foreign language instruction
AND: second language learners AND literacy (must
find both terms) OR: testing OR assessment (must find one of the terms) NOT: testing NOT standardized (must find first term
NOT second term)
Phrases: “second language learners” (must
find that phrase in that order) Synonyms: (“second language learner” OR
ELLs) AND literacy Wildcards: assess* will find assessment, assessments,
Chinook is the catalog for materials owned by the CU Libraries. You can do a title search for a specific book, or a keyword search if you are looking for books on a particular topic. You can also use MyChinook to manage your library account (including renewals, holds, recalls, saved searches, etc.)
If you search Chinook and find that the CU Libraries do not have the item you are looking for (or if the item you are looking for is checked out), you can search Prospector, which is a combined library catalog of 23 libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. CU students, staff and faculty can request materials through Prospector, and the items will generally be delivered to Norlin within a few business days.
If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). The Interlibrary Loan Team, as part of the Access Services Department, provides the University community with information resources not owned by CU Boulder. In most instances there is NO CHARGE for this service, which is subsidized by the University Libraries.
It usually takes between 24-48 hours to receive a PDF of your article.
In order to find articles about a particular topic, you will to search in library database other than Chinook. You can only search for journal titles in the Chinook catalog, you won't find article titles listed in Chinook.
You may explore our databases organized by categories and subcategories. Remember to read the descriptions of each database to determine which will suit your needs. Think about other disciplines that may be relevant to your topic!
Typically you may search by keyword, author, title and more. For help developing keywords, go to How do I Choose Keywords?HINT! Keep track of search terms. Look for database recommended search terms and help resources.
ERIC Education Resources Information Center (CSA) provides access
to more than 1.2 million abstracts of journal articles (EJ) and other education-related
documents (ED) produced by practioners and researchers. CSA also provides saved searches, email alerts and other
Full-text access to ERIC Documents
(ED) is available for many of the documents. DIgital copies of ERIC Documents available only microfiche can be
requested from Pascal using the ERIC Document request form.
ERIC’s personalized Web resource, My ERIC, makes it easy to manage your ERIC searches, sources, and citations. My ERIC gives you the ability to save searches and interesting citations from your search results to access later from wherever you choose to do your online research. My ERIC participants also have the opportunity to submit their own works to be considered for the ERIC Collection through the Online Submission System.
Includes comprehensive coverage of an international range of English-language periodicals, monographs and yearbooks. Coverage includes about 79 journals not covered by ERIC. Education Abstracts indexes articles from 1929 to present. In most cases, the Find it at CU icon will connect to the full-text.
Access Education Index Retro (index-only, with coverage from 1929-1983) by clicking here.
The database covers all aspects of the study of language including
phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Includes descriptive,
historical, comparative, theoretical and geographical linguistics. Provides
abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from
over 1,500 serials publications, and abstracts of books, book chapters,
Index with citations and summaries of journal articles, book chapters, books, dissertations, and technical reports, covering psychology and the psychological aspects of related disciplines, such as medicine, education, psychiatry, anthropology, business, and law. Produced and copyrighted by the American Psychological Association.
Includes comprehensive coverage of an international range of English-language
periodicals, monographs and yearbooks. Coverage includes about 79 journals
not covered by ERIC. Education Abstracts indexes articles from 1929
to present. In most cases, the Find it at CU icon will connect to the
full-text. Access limited to four simultaneous users. Requires VPN software
to access off campus.
This is an archival collection (2003-earlier) including more than 50 major peer reviewed education journals including
those published by the American Education Research Association. This full-text collection does not contain the most recent publications.
Or search numerous guides leading to valuable resources (databases, print,
online directories and more).
Widening your search
The Libraries subscribe to numerous databases and choosing the right article database can be difficult. There are numerous types of databases some will provide citations and abstracts, some will also include full text, some will link to reference materials, and more.There are a few things to keep in mind:
What discipline or subject area does your topic fall within? Who is having a conversation on the issue?
What perspective are you interested in? (medical, psychological, sociological etc.)
All of these questions will help lead you to a relevant database. Keep in mind that there are a few types of databases.
General and Interdisciplinary databases: These databases are a good starting point when you are new to your topic. They often include scholarly and popular sources as well as material from a variety of disciplines and perspetives. For Example: Academic Search Premier
Subject or Discipline Databases: These databases will help you find material from specific disciplines. They provide more in-depth and focused research.
Format Specific Databases: These databases are narrowed to specific types of material, such as newspapers, statistics, images, biographies etc. For Example: ProQuest newspapers
Use Ulrichsweb.com for information about a specific journal title including where the journal is indexed (i.e. ERIC, Proquest Central)
A database that provides information about regularly and irregularly published journals, magazines, newspapers, and full-text electronic resources from more than 200 countries. In addition to order information and price, entries include brief descriptions, circulation data, whether or not a title is peer-reviewed, indexing and abstracting services that cover the title, reviews, and other information. The database also includes information about obtaining rights and permissions for many titles.
A comprehensive education library dedicated to equity and diversity, located within the School of Education, gives patrons direct access to education tools and resources reflecting the School's commitment to social justice and the preparation of educators fully informed about issues and curriculum resources for educating diverse students in grades Kindergarten through 12.
A personal online database and bibliography creator that allows users to create a personal database online, import references automatically from multiple databases, organize references, and quickly format bibliographies and manuscripts. You will need to create a login and password. Provided by the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.
Use RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero, or some other citation management tool. You will be able to keep track of citations, organize your literature reviews, insert citations easily into your paper, as well as create bibliographies. It will save you a huge amount of time in the long run.
You can customize Chinook, the CU library catalog, so that you automatically receive email alerts of new resources added to the library collection. Follow the steps below to initiate this feature.
Current awareness services
Databases such as CSA ERIC allow you to set up automatic searches and Table of Contents alerts for journals. You will need to create an account in CSA ERIC (My Research) which will allow you to save searches, get e-mail alerts, and recieve journal alerts.
Google Scholar now provides an email alert service based on your search terms in Google Scholar. You are able to create an alert by clicking on the Create Email Alert after you have done a search.
Search for information related to proposal writing and education/social sciences research in Chinook with the following subject headings:
The Writing Center offers writers from across disciplines and skill levels the opportunity to work one-on-one with consultants trained in writing pedagogy. Writing Center sessions strive to address writers' stated needs while attending to relevant disciplinary, rhetorical, grammatical, and stylistic concerns. Services are FREE to all CU students, faculty, staff and alumni. We're in the Norlin Commons (Norlin E111, near the east entrance of Norlin Library )
OWL of Purdue University
Online Writing Center of Purdue University is an excellent site full of writing and research tips.
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