Children's Literature Collection

Education Librarian

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Megan York

Mullins Library
MULN 419
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Keeping Track of Your Searches

Search for articles in library databases can take hours of trial and error. You will likely need to adjust the keywords, subject headings, and limiters you use to get your search exactly where you want it. Keeping track of your database searches using a search log can help you identify successful strategies and avoid repeating searches.

Search logs can be as simple as a screenshot of your search results page, or as complicated as a color-coded Excel sheet. You should consider including the following information in your search log:

  • Date the search was preformed
  • Database
  • Search terms
  • Limiters (filters) or expanders used
  • Number of results found
  • Notes regarding the quality of the search strategy or what you might do differently for the next search

Download the following attachment to access a search log template for Microsoft Excel. This log is meant for large research projects and may be overly complex for smaller projects like research papers.

Core Education Resources

Children's Literature Book Awards

Lesson Plans, Projects, and Activities

Professional Organizations

Tips for Finding and Evaluating Sources

Starting Your Research

Step 1: Choose your research topic
  • Try to phrase your topic as a question - what is it you want to learn?
  • Examples:
    • Is teacher retention related to leadership styles of principals?
    • How does flashcards use impact reading fluency of students with learning disabilities?
    • What factors increase graduation rates of LGBT+ students?
Step 2: Identify key concepts
  • Key concepts are the main ideas of your topic/question
  • Your research question should have between 2 and 4 key concepts
  • Pay attention to any hidden concepts in your question - you may not have explicitly stated one of your assumptions
  • Examples:
    • Is teacher retention related to leadership styles of principals?
    • How does flashcards use impact reading fluency of elementary students with learning disabilities?
    • What factors increase graduation rates of LGBT+ students? (hidden concept: college)
Step 3: Generate keywords
  • Try to come up with at least three keywords related to each of your key concepts
  • Keywords can be synonyms, broader terms, more specific terms, or just related terms
  • Each keyword should be able to stand on it's own as a search term - if you gave someone that term they could deduce what your key concept was
  • Examples:
    • graduation rate
      • broader term - graduation
      • related term - retention
      • related term - persistence
      • NOTE: I wouldn't want to add keywords like grades or success here, since we're interested in the specific measure of graduation
    • LGBT+
      • narrower term - lesbian
      • narrower term - gay
      • narrower term - bisexual
      • narrower term - transgender
      • related term - homosexual
      • NOTE: This keyword list could (and should!) get very long!
    • college
      • synonym - university
      • related term - higher education
      • related term - postsecondary
      • narrower term - undergraduate
      • NOTE: I wouldn't want to include keywords like freshman, sophomore, junior, senior here as those words could also refer to high school students
Step 4: Select a research database
  • Choose one of the research databases linked above
  • For most education related topics, ERIC is your best bet
Step 5: Create your search statements and start searching
  • Now that you have your keywords you have to combine them in ways the database understands
  • To do this we use Boolean Operators
Boolean Operators

Venn Diagram with only the center area where both circles overlap highlighted.

  • AND limits to results with both of the connected keywords
  • Use AND to narrow you research and return fewer results

Venn Diagram with all areas highlighted.

  • OR limits to results which contain either of the connected terms
  • Use OR to broaden your search and return more results

Venn Diagram with the left portion of the left-most circle highlight.

  • NOT limits to results which contain the first term but exclude the second, connected term
  • Use NOT to narrow your search and return fewer results
Phrase Searching 
  • Use quotation marks to group two or more words together 
  • Phrase searching ensures that the words inside the quotes will be found in your results exactly as you wrote them
  • Examples:
        “social media”
        “high school” 
  • Limiters can be used to narrow your search results
  • Full Text will limit your results to items you can read in full, online
  • Peer-Reviewed or Scholarly will limit your results to academic journal articles
  • Date limiters can help you narrow your results by publication date
Truncation and Wildcards
  • Truncation substitutes a symbol, usually an asterisk (*), for any ending of a root word
  • Example:
    econom* = economic, economy, economize, economist, etc.
  • Wildcards are symbols, usually a question mark (?), substituted for one character in a word
  • Example:
    ma?e = mace, made, male, etc.
Subject Headings and Descriptors
  • Subject headings or Descriptors are controlled terms and phrases assigned to articles by reviewers to describe the articles' content
  • Search for specific subject headings to descriptors to limit results to articles that are primarily about specific topics or concepts
  • Each database has unique subject headings and descriptors; they can usually be found in a thesaurus or help page 
Annotated screenshot of an ERIC (Ebsco) search identifying examples of search techniques.
  1. Boolean operators
    • AND separates each search box
    • OR separates synonymous or related keywords
  2. Phrase searching
    • quotes ensure that the keyword "action research" is searched as a phrase
  3. Subject headings
    • The keyword "action research" is searched for in the SU Descriptor field to narrow results to articles tagged with the subject heading "action research"
  4. Truncation
    • number* will return keywords like numberal, numberals, numberacy
    • number* will return keywords like number, numbers
  5. Limiters 
    • Search has been limited to full text, peer-reviewed articles, published in or after the year 2000 


Are you sure this study is legit? Sure, it says it was accepted for publication. Where? Hmm... The National Academy of Proceedings. If something is formatted like a serious scientific paper, it can take me a while to realize it isn't one.


Not all resources you find are created equal! Use the CRAAP test to critically evaluate sources, especially those found online.


  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?


  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?


  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • For web sources, does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?


  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?


  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Source: The CRAAP Test was developed by librarians at Meriam Library, California Statue University, Chico. 

The library provides access to over 500,000 ebooks. The short video above will tell you more about the types of ebooks owned by the Libraries as well as show you how to access ebooks through Quick Search, OneSearch, and library databases.

Image describing how to read call numbers. Information is detailed in text below.

Books in the University of Arkansas Libraries are organized using Library of Congress call numbers. These call numbers consist of four or more lines of letters and numbers. The first line consists of one or two letters, read alphabetically. The second line is a whole number. The third line consists of a letter, read alphabetically, and a decimal number. The fourth line is the year of publication. Following lines may contain version or copy information.

Call numbers can be tricky! If you have trouble finding a book in the library, please let a staff member know. Librarians and library staff will be happy to assist you.

When searching OneSearch for theses and dissertations, try searching by:

  • author when you know the thesis author
  • keyword when you are looking for a topic (add the keyword "thesis" to your terms)
  • subject for department or advisor name, e.g.:
    • dept geography
    • advisor dixon

A simple Google search can return millions of results in a fraction of a second. How can you refine your search to find narrower, more focused, higher quality results?

Tip 1: Limit your search to specific top-level domains to narrow your search.

Top-level domain names (the two, three, or four letters at the end of a URL) can tell you a lot about who controls the site and the types of content available there.

.com .gov .edu .org
This is an unrestricted domain. Anyone can create and own a .com site. This domain is only for governmental use, and is almost exclusively used by US governmental entities and agencies. This domain is only for education use, and is almost exclusively used by US colleges and universities. This is an unrestricted domain, but is often used by non-profit organizations.


Tip 2: Limit your search to a specific website.

When searching for information within a specific website, you can limit your search to that site. This can be very useful for locating resources from professional association websites or even government sites.


Tip 3: Search for an exact phrase.

"reading intervention"
"Every Student Succeeds Act"
"total water intake"

Use quotation marks around phrases to search for words in the order they are typed. Use this technique to keep important words together and search them as a phrase instead of individual terms.


Tip 4: Exclude a word, phrase, or site from your search.

-"Besty DeVos"

Add a minus sign directly before a word, phrase (in quotes) or site: restriction to remove that term from your results. This is very helpful when your results are clogged with unrelated, extraneous results.