Choosing a Topic

Getting started on your project and choosing a topic can sometimes be very challenging.  Be sure to select a topic that interests you since you will be reading and writing about it all semester.

Reference Resources

Reference materials, such as specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks, are a good place to begin your research and get background information on potential topics.  Once you identify an interesting topic, you can also use these resources to identify keywords and ideas surrounding that topic.

Many of the library's reference materials are available online.  Check out the Education E-Reference Resources, as well as the Psychology E-Reference Resources.  To get you started, here are a few sample entries:

Literature Review - Background Research

Finding Scholarly Articles

Before undertaking any research study, it is important to find out what research has already been completed in the field.  Scholarly articles are those that have been reviewed by trustworthy members of the field prior to being published by reputable sources.  Most databases will allow you to limit to scholarly sources while you search. Begin your research with these prominent databases:

The ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) database is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to provide extensive access to educational-related literature. 

Education Full Text (WilsonWeb)
Subjects include administration, teaching methods and curriculum, literacy, government funding, and more. ERIC, the government education file, can be searched simultaneously by clicking Open Database Selection Area and selecting ERIC.

Indexes journals, dissertations and some books in the fields of personality psychology, social psychology, educational psychology and more.

Social Services Abstracts (CSA)
Coverage of current research focused on social work, human services, and related areas, including social welfare, social policy, and community development.

Education Administration Abstracts (EBSCO)
This database covers essential areas related to educational administration, including educational leadership, educational management, educational research, and other areas of key relevance to the discipline.

Article Database Search Tips

  • Use synonyms, brainstorm and mine found resources
  • Notice controlled vocabulary, index, descriptor and subject terms.  Take good notes!
  • Use truncation to search for all terms with the same root: child* for child, children and childhood
  • Combine terms with boolean operators, AND contains both terms, OR contains at least one term
  • Search phrases; quotes work for most databases
  • Use dropdown menu or radio buttons to limit search to fields such as title, subject, abstract, descriptors
  • Save time and frustration with the Help menu: every database has one!

Finding Articles in Full Text findit.gif

Once you have identified a useful article, check to see whether it is available in full text from that database.  You will see a link or an icon for an HTML or PDF version of the article (sometimes the full article is displayed below the abstract).  If the article is not available in full text through that database, it may still be available through another resource.  Click the find it button to see if it is available.  This will take you to the 360Link screen:


Digging Deeper

Use good articles to find even more articles.  Note interesting authors and studies that are cited as you read, and review the bibliographies of relevant articles carefully.

You can also use the Social Sciences Citation Index to see if a great article has been cited in more recent research since it has been published.  This is an extremely helpful tool!

Conducting a Research Study

The library has some useful books and guides for conducting a research study.

Writing a Proposal

See the full results for Falvey's books on Proposal Writing in Human Services, and Proposal Writing more generally.  Some of these titles are more geared toward grant writing, but soliciting grants or funding for research proposals is often part of the same process.

Research Design and Methodology

E-Reference materials on research methods in the social sciences can give a good overview or answer quick questions:


APA Style

Publication manual for the American Psychological Association

  • Available for use in the library, this is the official guide to APA style.

OWL (Purdue University Online Writing Lab) - APA

  • OWL is a freely available online resource provided by Purdue University.  The OWL gives clear instructions for formatting your paper and bibliography in APA style.

Research and Documentation Online

  • Another useful guide available on the Web.