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SPED 8026: Program Development in the Life Span: Tips to Make the Research Process Easier

Choosing a Database

There a large number of databases available, each one different from another in a variety of ways. They may have very different search features and options. Some databases are subject specific while others cover a more general, broad-based range of subject areas. They may provide full online access to some or all of the items (article, book, video, etc.), or they may provide only an abstract or partial clip, or just list the item's citation information.

In the field of Special Education Academic Search Premier, ERIC and Education Journals are great databases to start with for just about any topic. From there, depending on your topic, you may want to look at other subject specific databases. For instance Lexis-Nexis Academic provides information on state and federal regulations as well as legal cases relating to education while psycholgy databases can provide additional articles relating to behavior or cognitive development.

And, Or, Not

Combine all your concepts and terms with AND, OR, NOT:


AND - use this when ALL the words must be in your results. This will narrow your results.   Example: apples AND oranges; peanut butter AND jelly

OR  - use this to connect synonyms, when ANY can come back in your results. This will broaden a search. Example: women OR woman OR girl; cat OR kitty OR kitten

NOT - use with caution since this will eliminate results with the specified word.

See a visual guide to Boolean here!

    Already know the article you need but not sure how to find it?

    Sometimes you may come across a citation or even a partial citation of an article that you need or want to find. Some of the common reasons why this might happen are:

    • You may have an assignment in which your professor tells you to find a specific article.
    • You may have a friend who mentions they saw an article you might be interested in.
    • As you read the articles you have found, you examine their bibliographies and find additional articles on your topic.
    • The article is not available in full text in the database or website you are using.

    To help you quickly discover if you can get the article from one of our online journals or the library's print collection we provide a Journal locator tool on the library's homepage - mouse over Research and click on the Journals link in the green dropdown, then click on Journal Locator (or use the Journal Locator tool embedded below). All you need is the name of the journal, which you can type in the box below (if you don't know the exact journal title, you can click on the down arrow and search by "Title Contains All Words" instead of the default "Title Begins With") and then hit the Search button. It will bring you to a results screen where you will see one or more of the following:

    • The journal title displays with one or more databases listed along with the date range that the database provides full text articles for that journal. Simply click on the database link to go to the journal or in many cases there will be a direct link to the article.
    • The journal title displays with a date range and the note that it is in the Fitchburg State print holdings on the 2nd floor. Simply come in to the library and pull the issue off the shelf; print journals are shelved alphabetically by journal title.
    • If you see the message "Sorry, this search returned no results.", it means we don't subscribe to that journal. Make sure you didn't mistype or mispell, and then go directly to ILLiad Interlibrary Loan and fill out the form so we can borrow the article from another library for you - this is a free service for students. When the article arrives we will send it to you via email or post-to-web so you can download it.

    Note: If you are in one of our library databases, you will see a "Get Article" or "Find Article" link for each article in your results list that is not full text. Click on that link and it will launch the Journal search tool using the article's citation information for you without your having to use the Journal search box.

    Type in the name of a journal to see if the AVGC Library has access to it online or in our print collection:



      Paraphrasing vs. Quoting

    Paraphrasing is different from quoting, but it's not always as easy to do.  Here are some resources to help you learn how to paraphrase better.



    • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
    • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
    • to commit literary theft
    • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

    (From Merriam Webster Online.)

    Explore the links below to learn more about Plagiarism and how to avoid it.