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Educational Leadership - Ed.D. and Ph.D.

Research guide for students pursuing an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

Effective Search Techniques

When searching for materials in electronic resources and databases, it's a good idea to use effective searching techniques to get the most out of your time and efforts. You don't want to waste your time gathering a bunch of irrelevant information that you can't use in your paper. Use these search strategies to help you find useful information quickly and effectively. Find out more about these techniques on the following pages.

Keyword Searching

Use a keyword search to search all parts of a source for the words you enter in the search box. This type of searching uses "natural language" and is one you're probably already familiar with--you simply enter words or phrases into a search box that you think are relevant to your topic. Click on the "Keyword Searching" page for more information. 

Boolean Searching

Boolean searching is a search technique which uses Boolean operators to help bring back search results faster and with more precision. The most common Boolean operators are ANDOR, and NOT. These are logic-based words that help search engines narrow down or broaden search results. Click on the "Boolean Searching" page for more information. 

Phrase Searching

When you search for a phrase like corporate social responsibility the search engine will bring back any results that have those words in them. However, if you put quotation marks around the phrase "corporate social responsibility" the search engine will only bring back results that have all those words, exactly in the order you have them. This can also be useful when you're searching for the title of a book or other resource. Click on the "Phrase Searching" page for more information. 


An asterisk (*) at the end of a group of letters (the "trunk" of a word) tells the search engine to find all words beginning with those letters. Or using an asterisk anywhere in a word will tell the search engine to substitute all possible letters into that spot to find other words.

  • Example: assoc* will bring up associate, associates, association, associations, associating, etc. 
  • Example: wom*n will bring up woman, women, and even womyn (Yes! That's an accepted alternate spelling!)

Subject Searching

Within a database or online catalog, subject searching allows you to search by categories, which are found in the subject field of an item record. Subject terms are pre-defined and used for all items within a database or source that relate to that term. Click on the "Subject Searching" page for more information. 


Many databases allow users to limit their search results by certain criteria. These options are often located somewhere on the database search page or results list as drop down menus or check boxes. Some common and useful limiters include: date of publication, material type, full text, peer-reviewed, and more. Click on the "Limiters" page for more information. 

Using References/Works Cited Lists

Another good search tip is to let one good book or article lead you to others. Scholarly publications almost always have bibliographies or lists of works cited. These are lists of the resources the author used to write the book or article you've found. Explore these! If the original source is useful to you, works used by the author may be valuable, too. Click on the "Using References/Works Cited Lists" page for more information.