How to do Research on Education

Education Research Guide 1How to do research on education? Soaring enrollments and serious budget cuts in U.S. K–12 public and private schools and at colleges and universities have directly impacted teacher performance, student-teacher classroom ratios, and the deemed “underperformance” of educational institutions. These critical problems, along with a broad range of social, cultural, economic, and political issues and many overcrowded and understaffed schools, have made the goal of fulfilling equity and educational excellence for most schools a near impossibility. Whether you are engaged in the study, discussion, or writing a research paper on education and educational topics, a remarkable tide of librarian-suggested resources providing academic viewpoints and perspectives from both sides are available to examine any problems or issues facing educators, parents, and students.

Selected Subject Headings

Listed below is a sample of a few broad Library of Congress subject headings—made up of one word or more representing concepts under which all library holdings are divided and subdivided by subject—which you can search under and use as subject terms when searching online library catalogs for preliminary and/or additional research, such as books, audio and video recordings, and other references, related to your topic. When researching materials on your research paper topic, subject heading searching may be more productive than searching using simple keywords. However, keyword searching when using the right search method (Boolean, etc.) and combination of words can be equally effective in finding materials more closely relevant to your topic.

  • College Students
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Education
  • Education—Costs
  • Education—Curricula
  • Education, Elementary
  • Education, Higher
  • Education, Preschool
  • Education, Secondary
  • Educational Surveys
  • Educational Technology
  • High School Students
  • Reading
  • Schools
  • Students
  • Teaching
  • Universities and Colleges
  • Teachers of Gifted Children

Most online library indexes and abstracts and full-text article databases offer basic and advanced “keyword” searching of virtually every subject. In this case, combine keyword terms that best define your thesis question or topic using the Boolean search method (employing “and” or “or”) to find research most suitable to your topic.

If your paper topic is “sexual activity among high school students,” for example, enter “sex” and “high school students” with “and” on the same line to locate sources directly compatible with the primary focus of your research paper. To find additional research on more specific aspects of your topic, from your list of keywords that you developed alternate one new keyword at a time with “and” (for example, “sex and abstinence and high school students,” “sex and morality and high school students,” “sex and peer pressure and high school students,” “sex and teen pregnancy and high school students,” etc.).

Selected Source and Subject Guides

Education Research Guide 2As part of your preliminary research to find appropriate resources for your research paper topic, information source and research guides are available at most public and academic libraries and are keyword searchable through your library’s online catalog (to search and locate guides, enter your “subject” followed by these keywords one search at a time: “information sources,” “reference sources,” and “research guide”). Printed guides available for this subject area include

American Education: A Guide to Information Sources, by Richard G. Durnin, 247 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1982)

American Higher Education: A Guide to Reference Sources—Bibliographies and Indexes in Education, edited by Peter P. Olevnik, 211 pages (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993)

Education: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, 2nd ed., by Nancy Patricia O’Brien, 189 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2000)

The History of American Education: A Guide to Information Sources, edited by Francesco Cordasco, 313 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1979)

In addition to these sources of research, most college and university libraries offer online subject guides arranged by subject on the library’s Web page; others also list searchable course-related “LibGuides” by subject. Each guide lists more recommended published and Web sources—including books and references, journal, newspaper and magazines indexes, full-text article databases, Web sites, and even research tutorials—that you can access to expand your research on more specific issues and relevant to your research paper.

Selected Books and References


Cooperative Learning: A Guide to Research, by Samuel Totten et al., 390 pages (New York: Garland, 1991)

Distance Education: An Annotated Bibliography, by Terry Ann Mood, 191 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1995)

Distance Learning for Higher Education: An Annotated Bibliography, by Marjorie Fusco and Susan E. Ketcham, 132 pages (Greenwood Village, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2002)

Education for Older Adult Learning: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography, by Reva M. Greenberg, 219 pages (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993)

Gender Equity in Education: An Annotated Bibliography, by Beverly A. Stitt, 168 pages (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994)

Middle Level Education: An Annotated Bibliography, by Samuel Totten et al., 428 pages (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996)

Multiculturalism in Academe: A Source Book, by Libby V. Morris and Sammy Parker, 187 pages (New York: Garland, 1996)

Research in Higher Education: A Guide to Source Bibliographies, 2nd ed., by Richard H. Quay, 133 pages (Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1985)

Special Education: A Source Book, by Manny Sternlicht, 431 pages (New York: Garland, 1987)

The above titles are excellent sources of information, featuring summaries of books and articles as well as lists of research materials on educational subjects.


Chronology of Education in the United States, by Russell O. Wright, 8 vols., 195 pages (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006)

Eight-volume reference set covering a broad spectrum of education topics with a chronology of the development of education in the United States from 1600 to the present. Appendixes include various educational data and statistics about student-classroom ratios, degrees conferred, and more.


Patterson’s American Education, 106 vols. (Schaumburg, Ill.: Educational Directories, 1904– )

This annual directory published since 1904 lists the most current information on public and private schools in the United States, including more than 11,000 school districts, 20,000 high schools, 14,000 middle schools, and 6,000 postsecondary schools. It is the ideal resource to obtain information on any secondary school. Covered are school name, address, phone and fax number, principal’s name, enrollment, grade level, and more. Patterson’s Elementary Education (1989– ) provides similar information for primary school settings.


Encyclopedia of Education, 2nd ed., edited by James W. Guthrie, 8 vols., 3,357 pages (New York: Macmillan Reference, 2002)

This revised second edition of the eight-volume 1971 reference set features more than 850 signed articles written by a panel of distinguished contributors on virtually all aspects of American education and the country’s educational system. Subject areas covered include policy and curriculum issues; learning, assessment, and standards; history and culture; and profiles of organizations, schools, and people. Articles run from one to 20 pages in length and come with complete bibliographies of print and electronic sources on most subjects.

Encyclopedia of Educational Research, 6th ed., edited by Marvin C. Alkin, 4 vols., 1,200 pages (New York: Macmillan Reference, 1992)

Written by many notable experts in the field, this four-volume sixth edition contains 257 articles covering important issues and developments in education. Topics covered include AIDS education, athletics in higher education, testing uses and abuses, educating teenage parents, women’s education, and much more. A series appendix lists secondary sources of research, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, handbooks, indexing and abstracting services, CD-ROM sources, and dissertations.

Encyclopedia of Human Intelligence, edited by Robert J. Sternberg, 2 vols., 1,235 pages (New York: Macmillan, Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada, and New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994)

This two-volume set features essays on related topics of education and corresponding bibliographies on each subject.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence, 2nd ed., edited by Jerome Kagan and Susan B. Gall, 752 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1998)

Featuring information on different ethnic groups within the United States, this illustrated second edition offers 700 descriptive essays on the areas of human development, from birth to adolescence.

Handbooks and Guides

Education: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, 2nd ed., by Patricia O’Brien, 189 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2000)

This revised second edition describes more than 900 reference books, online databases, research centers and organizations, and core periodicals helpful for beginning research on all areas of education.

Handbook of Children and the Media, by Dorothy G. Singer and Jerome L. Singer, 784 pages (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2001)

This encyclopedic handbook is a superb source of information discussing the relevant effects of media on learning, cognitive skills, and social attitudes.

Handbook of Learning Disabilities, edited by H. Lee Swanson, Karen R. Harris, and Steve Graham, 587 pages (New York: The Guilford Press, 2005)

Divided into five sections, this expertly written sourcebook covers current perspectives and the latest research and practices in the field of learning disabilities, including major landmarks in learning disability research, definitional questions, legal and policy concerns, and culture and school placement models. Included are lists of research sources.

Special Education: A Reference Handbook, by Arlene Sacks, 266 pages (Amenia, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2009)

This updated, second-edition handbook, first published in 2001, discusses in detail all areas of special education as well as sources on the subject, including chronologies, directories, bibliographies, and other references.

Student Rights: A Reference Handbook, by Patricia H. Hinchey, 206 pages (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2001)

This handy reference provides a complete overview of students’ rights, plus a chronology of legislation and court cases, current issues, and information on relevant organizations, additional reading, and Internet resources.

Selected Full-Text Article Databases

Academic Search Premier (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, indexing: 1984– , full text: 1990– )

Web-based database indexing articles, many in full text since 1990, from more than 3,200 publications, including a wide range of popular magazines and scholarly journals, covering business, health, social sciences, humanities, education, and general science.

Education: A SAGE Full-Text Collection (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications, Inc./Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, 1918– )

Archives fully searchable full text to more than 52,000 articles from almost 40 education journals published by SAGE and participating societies and up to 90 years of back files on some publications.

Education Full Text (Bronx, N.Y.: H.W. Wilson Co., indexing/abstracting, 1983– , full text: 1996– )

Searchable database of citations and abstracts to 770 periodicals, including 400 peer-reviewed journals, from June 1983 to date, and full-text articles from 350 journals published since 1996. Corresponds to H.W. Wilson’s printed edition of Education Index.

ERIC PlusText (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1994– )

This expanded, full-text counterpart features the complete educational literature index ERIC, compiled by the U.S. Educational Resources Information Center, with detailed information on a wide range of educational topics, including adult education, disabilities, gifted education, educational management, reading and communication, home schooling, and more, and incorporates full-text journals from ProQuest Education Journals as well.

Expanded Academic ASAP (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale InfoTrac, 1980– )

Easy-to-search general-interest and scholarly resource of more than 8.5 million articles from academic journals, news magazines, newspapers, and newswire services with 1,900 journals in full text out of 3,000 indexed; covering all subject areas.

LexisNexis Academic Universe (Dayton, Ohio: LexisNexis, 1977– )

Access to news and current events and business, legal, and medicine information from more than 5,000 sources, including full text of more than 350 newspapers from the United States and around the world, 300 magazines and journals, and more than 600 newsletters, wire services, broadcast transcripts from major television and radio networks, international and non-English language sources, and more.

Professional Development Collection (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost)

Created for education professionals, this Web database contains full text of more than 500 journals on education, psychology, children’s health and development, and pedagogical theory and practice, including more than 350 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts along with full text to more than 800 journals.

ProQuest Education Journals (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1991– )

Offers access to more than 790 leading educational journals, including the full text and images to 615 journals, such as Childhood Education, College Teaching, Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Athletic Training, and Educational Theory. Publications and topics cover literature on primary, secondary, and higher education, special education, home schooling, adult education, and hundreds of others.

PsycARTICLES (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association/Cambridge Scientific Abstracts/EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost/Elsevier ScienceDirect/Hogrefe Publishing Group/OCLC FirstSearch/Ovid Technologies, Inc./ProQuest, 1894– )

This online database features full-text articles from 71 journals published by the American Psychological Association, the APA Educational Publishing Foundation, the Canadian Psychological Association, and Hogrefe Publishing Group; available through APA and different online vendors, including EBSCO Publishing’s EBSCOHost, Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, OCLC First-Search, and others.

Selected Periodicals

Adult Learning Quarterly (Bower, Md.: American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, 1989– )

This journal covers research on basic education and literacy, including practical applications of research and innovative instructional strategies.

Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice (London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 1994– )

Published three times yearly since 1994, this scholarly journal covers in each issue developments in the field of educational assessment, including new approaches, modes of assessment, implications of individual learners, institutions, and educational systems throughout the world. Abstracts and full-text articles of all issues are available at, with full-text articles also accessible through EBSCO’s Professional Development Collection database from March 1, 1994 to 18 months from the current year.

Child Development (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 1930– )

The flagship journal of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) since 1930, Child Development publishes articles, essays, reviews, and tutorials focusing on topics of child development spanning many disciplines and featuring the latest research reported by researchers and theoreticians, child psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, specialists in early childhood education, educational psychologists, special education teachers, and other researchers. Published six times a year, full-text articles are searchable through Expanded Academic ASAP (2000– ).

Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.: Chronicle of Higher Education, 1966– )

This weekly higher education tabloid features a broad range of articles reviewing new trends, changes, and political aspects of college and universities and includes employment listings of positions. Full-text articles are searchable through ProQuest (1988– )

Education (Mobile, Ala.: Project Innovation, 1880– )

Education quarterly that publishes articles exploring innovations in learning, teaching, and education at all levels. Full-text access to articles from past issues is available through EBSCO’s Professional Development Collection (September 1, 1969– ) and Thomson Gale’s Expanded Academic ASAP (March 22, 1993– ).

Educational Leadership (Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1943– )

Magazine published eight times yearly covering curriculum, instruction, supervision, and leadership issues of importance to school administrators.

The Education Digest (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Prakken Publications, Inc., November 1935– )

Published nine times yearly from September through May, this educational journal for professional educators, in print since November 1935, contains reprints and condensed articles from mostly K–12 journals reviewing important issues, policies, practices, and research. Archives of previous issues, from 1988 to the present, can be searched at

Education Week (Bethesda, Md.: Editorial Projects in Education, Inc., 1981– )

Subtitled “American Education’s Newspaper of Record,” this professional weekly is the leading resource for elementary and secondary school educators covering local, state, and national news and issues grades K–12. Also published daily online at

Harvard Educational Review (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Graduate School of Education, February 1931– )

Published since 1931, this widely respected scholarly journal publishes opinions and research in education examining vital issues to policy makers, researchers, administrators, and teachers. Abstracts of articles from current and past issues (1980– ) are available at, with full-text articles searchable through ProQuest (1988– )

Journal of Teacher Education (Washington, D.C.: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, March 1950– )

Originally published quarterly from 1950 to 1976 before changing to six times yearly in 1977, this journal addresses the most timely and important issues covering the practice, policy, and research in teacher education, including new teacher education standards, assessing outcomes, teacher preparations for diverse student populations, accountability and accreditation issues, recruiting, teacher-school partnerships, alternative approaches, and more. Current issues can be viewed and past issues (March 1950– ) can be searched at Access to full-text articles is also provided through Thomson Gale’s Expanded Academic ASAP (September 1, 1997– )

Scholastic Instructor (New York: Scholastic Library Publishing, Inc., November 1891– )

This educational magazine for K–8 educators offers teaching strategies and suggested activities. Also published in an online edition at

Selected Web Sites

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) (

Government portal to the ERIC bibliographic database, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, featuring more than 1.1 million citations to education articles, searchable by keyword, title, or author, from 1966 to the present.

Education World (

Featuring more than 100,000 Web links, this site, which calls itself “the most comprehensive source for Education Links on the Internet,” offers access to a variety of sites that can be searched by keyword or by topic.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (

As the United States Department of Education’s main entity for collecting and analyzing education data for schools in the United States and in other nations, this official Web site includes education research, NCES publications, statistical facts, survey findings, and more.

U.S. Department of Education (

Site provides online access to programs and services, full-text publications, statistics, funding and student financial assistance, and the searchable ERIC article abstract database.

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