Steelman Library
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Dissertation Research in Education


Welcome to the Steelman Library subject guide for dissertation research in education!  This guide is designed to introduce you to the research process and the resources available to you. 

Use the tabs across the top of the page to navigate through databases, journals, reference sources, and websites. Some of the tabs will have subtabs with additional information.  If you have trouble finding information about your topic, contact the library for help.   Your comments and recommendations for improvements are welcome.

College of Education Website

Research Process

The research process.

A flow chart explores the research process:

A) Select Topic

  1. Background reading.
  2. Narrow/broaden topic.
  3. Develop thesis statement.

Reflection: Is my topic/thesis a good one?

If my topic/thesis is not good: Return to A) Select Topic.

If my topic/thesis is good: go to B. Develop Search Strategy

B) Develop Search Strategy

  1. Select organizational tool.
  2. Develop keywords.
  3. List questions to be answered about the topic.
  4. Identify resources.

Reflection: Are the resources adequate?

If resources not adequate: Return to B) Develop Search Strategy.

If resources adequate: go to C) Gather Information.

C) Gather Information

  1. Locate sources.
  2. Read and evaluate information.
  3. List bibliographic resources.
  4. Take notes.

Reflection: Do I have enough information?

If not enough information: Return to C) Gather Information.

If enough information: Go to D) Develop Final Product.

Lastly, E) Evaluate Process/Product.

Research Steps

Choose Topic

  • Choose an area of interest (topic selection)

General Overview

  • Gain a general overview of the subject by consulting the Reference Collection

Narrow to Research Question

  • Narrow the subject into a specific research question and start an outline

Type & Amount of Info

  • Decide on the type of information you need:
    • Books
    • Articles
    • Essays
    • Reports
    • Studies
    • Statistics
    • Primary sources
    • Conference proceedings
    • Dissertations
  • The amount of information depends on the length of your paper
  • Consider what types of sources might have that information:
    • Indexes
    • Catalogs
    • Bibliographies
    • Web search tools – these all provide lists of information sources

Choose Access Tools & Search

  • Choose appropriate “access” tools:
    • Library catalogs for books, audio/visual, etc.
    • Periodical indexes for journal & magazine articles (see Research databases)
    • Research databases for a combination of periodicals, books, essays, encyclopedias, & other information resources
    • Internet directories or indexes, search engines, mega/metasearch engines, webliographies, or web gateways for web pages
  • Develop a search strategy for each tool
  • Conduct a search

Examine Results

  • Examine the results of your search and select only the most relevant and credible sources

Evaluate Sources

  • Read, take notes, evaluate sources

Repeat as Necessary

  • Revise, refine, and repeat steps 1-7 as needed (making corrections, adjustments to your strategy, or backtrack to a previous search statement)

Known vs. Unknown

When you are searching for information, your search takes one of two paths.  You are searching for a 'known item' or an 'unkonwn item.' 

A known item is any part of a citation: an author, title, etc.  A bibliography would contain a list of 'known items.'

If you are searching for an unknown item, you need information about something, like attachment theory, and you are looking for citations on this topic. 

Other Library Catalogs - National Catalogs

  • WorldCat

    WorldCat connects you to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. Free version of WorldCat (OCLC FirstSearch).

  • Library of Congress

    Online catalog for the Library of Congress.

  • Libweb

    Links to web pages from libraries in the U.S. and worldwide. You can select according to type of library (academic, public, etc.) and region.

Reference Works – Why Use Reference

Consulting the reference collection is a good way to start a research project or paper. A reference work, like an encyclopedia, will provide a preliminary exploration of a topic.

It provides a description of the topic, background information, and sometimes a summary of research on the topic. A reference work may facilitate brainstorming for synonyms and keywords of important concepts in the research question. A reference work can also help in the creation of an outline. Start of keyword lists.

Often reference works have extensive bibliographies, pointing to other resources and experts in the field.

There are two types of reference tools:

Self-contained - dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, biographical information

Locating tools - those items that tell you "where to find it," such as indexes and bibliographies

Reference Works – Print Reference

Steelman Library Reference Collection includes dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and bibliographies, etc. The selection below is a representative sample of the reference works available to you. These books may be found on the library main floor. Use SPARC, the online catalog, to find additional materials related to your topic.

  • Almanac of American Education
    Reference LA217.2.A45
    Almanac of American Education ebook
  • Deskbook Encyclopedia of American School Law
    Reference KF4114.D46 2010
  • The Encyclopedia of Education
    Reference LB15.E6 2003
  • Encyclopedia of Education Law
    Reference KF4117.E6 2008
  • Encyclopedia of Educational Research
    Reference LB15.E5 1992

About Surveys

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials. Los Angeles Calif: Sage Publications.   300.723 C685 2008

Rea, L. M., & Parker, R. A. (2005). Designing and conducting survey research: a comprehensive guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 001.433 R22d 2005

Salkind, N. J. (2000). Statistics for people who (think they) hate statistics. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. 519.5 Sa34s 2004

Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: design and methods. Applied social research methods series, v. 5. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.  300.722 Y58c 2009


Reference Works

Web Sites

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States

    Published since 1878, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Use the Abstract as a convenient volume for statistical reference, and as a guide to sources of more information both in print and on the Web.

  • Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970

    The historical edition of the above Statistical Abstract.

  • Statistical Resources on the Web

    A collection of educational statistics web sites for elementary, secondary and higher education in the United States and worldwide. Provided by the University of Michigan.

  • Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013

    The monitoring of social, economic and environmental development requires the use of data that is comparable across countries and over time. This is realized in the 2007 edition of the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific. For the first time in its 50-year history, the Yearbook presents data compiled from global sources maintained by United Nations agencies and other international organizations.

  • State Data Center Program

    Census data on a state & local level.


    An independent, nonpartisan resource on trends in American public opinion.

Article & Journal Searching

To find articles published in periodicals (magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.), you will need to use a database. Databases can be multi-disciplinary (EBSCO, Proquest) or subject specific (ERIC, PSYCInfo). They can be searched in numerous ways: by author, title of the article or periodical, by keyword, or subject.

How to Select a Database

Click the "Library Databases" link below. You will find descriptions of database contents printed next to the database link.

Full-Text Available or Citation/Abstract Only?

If you need to be able to read the article immediately, be sure to click the "Full Text Only" box near the search box.

Locating a Known Article

If you are looking for a known article (you already have the citation from a reference book, bibliography, another article, etc.), try:

  • Use the A-to-Z Journal List link below - Search by journal title to see if a particular journal is fulltext and to be directed to that full text content
  • Search the library catalog by journal title to find out if a particular journal title (magazine, journal, newspaper, etc.) is available in print. Print periodicals are arranged alphabetically by title on the 1st floor of the library. Older issues can be found on the 2nd Floor.
  • Do a search on the web. Although most journal articles are not available for free, sometimes you may find what you are looking for.
  • If you cannot locate the full-text in print or electronic format, you may request the item using the library's interlibrary loan service.


Databases for Education Studies

  • To search more specific "education" resources, within Ebsco, click "Choose Databases" located above the search box. Click the "education" check box. You might also want to check "PsychInfo" and "PsychArticles."
  • Education Resources Information Center (1966 - Present) - U.S. Department of Education
  • Archive Database usually five years old including Scholarly, full-text periodicals in the Arts and Sciences.
  • Collection of nearly 520 high-quality education journals, including more than 350 peer-reviewed titles.
  • Full text of articles in behavioral science, education, nursing, business, neuroscience.
  • Abstracts of scholarly articles and dissertations in behavioral science and mental health.
  • More Education Databases

Do You Have a Plan?

Do you have a research plan?  Do you know what keywords and subject terms you need to use?  Which databases are availabe to you and which ones you have already searched?  Do you know which searches worked and which didn't?

Keep a written record of your reseach - where you have been and where you plan to go.  This will help you think about the process. 

Writing things down will facilitate brainstorming. It will help you clarify your topic and keep you focused

If you keep a record of of where your research has taken you, you will know what worked and you will not find yourself repeating bad searches.

A Search Strategy

Develop a Search Strategy

Develop a search strategy as part of your research plan.


How do school principals in rural schools demonstrate successful leadership? You would like to find qualitative and quantitative studies on this topic.

Your Keywords Are

Your keywords are: principals, leadership, rural schools, and study. Demonstrate and successful are implied and do not need to be included. Qualitative and quantitative may also be used, since these terms often appear in the abstract, or paragraph that describes the article or report.

Search Tips

  • Use "and" to narrow your search down and focus onto your specific topic by combining two or more terms. All terms must be present.
  • Use "or" to broaden your search by combining synonyms or alternative forms of words. Any of the words must be present.
  • TIP: Use truncation to automatically get words with variant endings, including plurals. This makes your search more efficient because it cuts down on your number of searches. Each database uses one or more punctuation marks as a truncation symbol.

Keyword vs. Subject

Keyword vs. Subject
Keywords Subjects
natural language controlled vocabulary
guess which words the author used points to preferred subject terms
only finds the words that are searched will find the topic searched

Search syntax

Boolean Operators

AND (narrows) OR (broadens) NOT (excludes)


( ) keeps like terms together; frequently used with Boolean operators like OR


" " works like grouping except you keep words/phrases together in a sequence, especially words that are stop words (a, an, the, of, etc.)


* (either *, ?, or !) works as an operator at the end of a word, allowing retrieval of a word and its various endings



? Allows for the substitution of a symbol (using either *, ?, or !) for a letter or letters when a word varies internally.

wom?n for women or woman

Known vs. Unknown

When you are searching for information, your search takes one of two paths.  You are searching for a 'known item' or an 'unkonwn item.' 

A known item is any part of a citation: an author, title, etc.  A bibliography would contain a list of 'known items.'

If you are searching for an unknown item, you need information about something, like attachment theory, and you are looking for citations on this topic. 

Bibliography from Attachment Theory Entry

Main, M. (2002). Attachment theory. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.


Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1969). Object relations, dependency and attachment: A theoretical review of the infant-mother relationship. Child Development, 40, 969-1025.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Bell. S. M., & Stayton, D. J. (1971). Individual differences in Strange Situation Behavior of one-year-olds. In H. R. Shaffer (Ed.), The origins of human social relations (pp. 17-57). New York: Academic Press.

Bowlby. J. (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39, 353-373.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. I. Attachment. London: Hogarth Press.

Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1980). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.

Cassidy. J., & Shaver, E’. R. (Eds.). (in press). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications. New York: Guilford Press.

Grossmann. K. E. & Grossmann, K. (1991). Attachment quality as an organizer of emotional and behavioral responses in a longitudinal perspective. In C. M. Parkes, J. Stevenson-Hinde, & P. Marris (Eds.), Attachment across the life cycle. London: Tavistock/Routledge.

Hesse. E. & Main, M. (in press). Frightened behavior in traumatized but non-maltreating parents: Previously unexamined risk factor for offspring. Psychoanalytic Inquiry.

Hinde. R. A. & Stevenson-Hinde, J. (1990). Attachment: Biological, cultural and individual desiderata. Human Development, 33, 62-72.

Main, M. (1995). Attachment: Overview, with implications for clinical work. In S. Goldberg, R. Muir, & J. Kerr (Eds.), Attachment theory: Social, development and clinical perspectives (pp. 407-474). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.

Sroufe, A. (1997). Psychopathology as an outcome of development. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 251-268.

Is it a Book or Article Citation?

How can you tell the difference between a citation for a book and an article?

BOOK citation generally has a place of publication: New York, London, Chicago, Grand Rapids & a publisher.

An article or a CHAPTER in a BOOK has the word "In" followed by the editor, title of book, etc.

An ARTICLE citation has a volume number (and/or issue number), and a date.

Search the Library Collections

Using the the library's collections to see if we have the book or full text of the article.

  1. Determine whether the citation is for a book or article
  2. See if the library has the item.
    • Search for a book or ebook in SEU Library catalog below.
    • Search for an article (print or electronic format) using the periodical title in the A-to-Z Journal List below. If you find the periodical in the directory, make sure the date range of coverage includes the year needed by the citation.
    • If you cannot find the book in the library catalog or the journal title, consider using interlibrary loan.
    • SEU Library Catalog

Internet and Scholarly Research

What are the long term effects of using websites in your research?  Will the websites you cite be available in 6 months?  1 year?  5 years?

Websites are impermanent — websites and search engines appear and disappear.

Search engines differ.  Conduct the same search in two different search engines.  How much overlap in there in the first page of results? 

Websites are constantly being updated.

Results can differ from day to day, sometimes hour to hour.  Results can even be manipulated. 

Lastly, not all the web is being searched (not like a library catalog or research database).

Evaluating Sources

All information MUST be evaluated: authority, accuracy, currency, purpose, objectivity, organization.

The internet has made the need for source evaluation increasingly important. You always need to evaluate all sources you use in your research.

Some criteria for evaluating websites include:

  • Accuracy — Is the information correct? Are there footnotes or hyperlinks explaining the origin of information?
  • Authority — Who wrote it? What are their qualifications? What is the reputation of the publisher or sponsor.
  • Coverage — What is the geographical area covered? What time period is covered?
  • Currency — How old is the information?
  • Objectivity — Is the language inflammatory? What is the world-view? Is there a bias?
  • Purpose — Why was it written? Who is the audience?
  • Organization — Is the site easily navigable? Are there annoying pop-ups?

You can always ask a librarian or your professor for an opinion about a specific website as well.

Need more help?




Visit our Library Faculty & Staff Contact page

Selected Dissertations

The dissertations found on this page link to the complete text. All relate to the subject of Education within the context of Administration and Leadership.


Citation Guides

There are a number of different styles or formats for citations, including MLA, APA and Turabian. Which style you use depends upon the subject discipline you are working in. If you are uncertain about which style to use, ask your professor.

Other Useful Links

Citing Print Sources

If you need information on how to cite print sources, you should consult the appropriate manual. Citation style manuals are available at the 1st floor Circulation Desk.

The following links are provided to give assistance in citing print sources.

Citing Electronic Sources

The following links are guidelines to assist in citing electronic sources. The authoritative sources for citation guidelines are the APA/MLA/Turabian style manuals or websites. Any questions not clearly answered in these guidelines should be addressed to your professor.

What is a Citation?

Citations identify published information in order to locate that item again. Citations of articles often include the author, title, magazine or journal name, page numbers, and publication information. Citations of Web documents also include a URL and the day the information was accessed.

The list of the sources you used when researching your paper is called a bibliography or works cited page. These sources are listed in citation format and follow an established style, such as MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), or Chicago Manual of Style. The bibliography allows others who read your work to verify facts or research the same information more easily.


Database Error

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