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General - see more specific language research guides if available.

Breaking Up Your Topic into Keywords

In order to search effectively, it's important to break out the main concepts of your research question into keywords.

     Research question:  What are some strategies for reading instruction for elementary school students in special education?

     Break up your research question into keywords or phrases that represent the main concepts:

  • Reading Instruction
  • Elementary
  • Special Education

     Search for each keyword, connected with an 'AND', indicating you want results that discuss all the concepts.  Unlike Google, databases generally search phrases as adjoining words, and in the exact order you type them:

             reading instruction AND elementary AND special education

In many databases, you will see three search boxes which is a good reminder to search for up to three different concepts. More than that will likely lead to little or no results.

Boolean Logic - And, Or, Not

Connecting words such as AND, OR, NOT will help you to expand or limit your search by tying synonyms and bringing together the different concepts of your topic.


My research question: For elementary school students, what are some strategies for reading instruction in special education?

Possible search formulation: special education AND (reading OR language arts) AND (elementary OR primary)