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Graduate Research In Education


Pre- Search

Getting started with research is sometimes the most challenging part! You'll most likely have to do some pre-search to determine precisely your research topic. For your pre-search, I recommend spending some time exploring your topic(s) of interest, looking at:

  • Websites
  • Books
  • Encyclopedias & other Reference Resources

Basic Search Techniques

Step #1 Keywords

Keywords are the words you type into the search box to find resources about your topic. What are the most important words in your research question? Think of synonyms for those words.

Example: How does exercise impact the mental health of college students?

Practice: Brainstorm possible keywords for this topic:

How do mentorship programs for new teachers impact have on teacher retention?

Step #2 Connecting Words

After you have decided on your keywords, you'll need to tell the database how they should be connected.


"college students" AND exercise

Will find resources that have both college students and exercise as keywords.


"college students" OR undergraduates

Will find resources about college students OR undergraduates.


"public university" NOT "private university"

Will find resources about college students at public universities NOT private

Advanced Search Techniques



Truncation can be used with root words that have multiple endings. It can help to increase your search results.

Truncation uses symbols (or wildcards) to replace letters in words. Different databases use different symbols. The most common are:

  • * (asterisk)
  • ? (question mark)
  • # (pound sign)

EBSCO databases use *(asterisk)

Example: communicat*  would retrieve records that include the words: communication, communicates, communicate, communicator, etc.



Nesting is another way to refine your search by combining Boolean operators. Place parenthesis around the terms that are grouped with OR or NOT.

"student success" AND (employment OR job*)

technology AND (assessment OR evaluation)


More tips

  • Avoid empty words like relationship, impact, effect, results
  • For best results, combine strategies:
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