Skip to Main Content

Professional Practice in Digital Teaching and Learning

Researching a topic - Introduction

Researching a topic for education is an online tutorial on finding resources as part of a research process.   There is a mixture of activities, videos and text.  You can work through the material systematically, top to bottom, left to right, or skim through, picking out what seems useful to you in the moment.   

Finding reflective practice resources in Library Search

This slide show introduces Library Search and the Library Gateway by showing you how to find resources on reflective practice.  You can download the slide show as a PowerPoint and In most regions you will also be able to access it in Google Slides.

Building a search strategy

Finding good quality resources is easier if you plan your search. 

The first step to building your Search Strategy is to identify the key concepts for an assignment or project.  After this it is necessary to think about alternative ways of describing these terms.  This is particularly important as different people and services may use different language to describe things.  This video demonstrates how to combine search terms in an effective search strategy.

Activity: Before looking at the video think about a topic you will explore in an assignment, or that is important for your professional practice, and identify 5 or 6 keywords.   These could be alternative ways to describe the topic or keywords that provide more context.  

Different types of information

Education is an interdisciplinary field, so whatever your experience you will learn about new ideas and theories. 

  • Encyclopedias and textbooks will give you a structured introduction and overview of new topics.  You can find text books on your reading lists or through the Library Gateway.
  • Review articles summarise the current understanding on a topic by considering previously published studies in the field. They can be found in Information Databases, Google Scholar and Library Search.

Use journal articles  and conference papers for the latest research, analysis and theoretical developments in education.

  • Journal articles are generally short papers on specific topics that are published in academic journals.  These articles provide up-to-date research in your subject and can be found in Library Search, Google Scholar and the Information Databases. Where possible look for peer reviewed articles.  Peer reviewed articles that have been checked by experts in the field before publication.
  • Conference Proceedings are a major source of cutting edge research.  You can find conference papers in information databases.  Conference papers may not be peer reviewed so if a paper is not very recent it is a good idea to see if the author has written a journal article on a similar topic.

Keep up to date with the very latest developments in professional practice and policy.

  • Newspapers - full text access to a number of local and international newspapers is available via the Nexus database on Library Gateway
  • Blogs/Social media - researchers often use social media to promote their work and are a good way of getting finding latest developments in your field.  Policy makers also promote new initiatives and statements on sociual media.
  • Professional practice publications - these are not peer reviewed but may be written by people with expertise and experience in the educaiton
  • Government websites and publications
  • Television and radio not only report the news developments but have regular documentaries on education

You can find statistics produced by government, independent bodies and international organisations.  There is more information on the Education and Autism subject guide.

 'Grey literature' describes a wide range of material including, government publications, policy documents and protocols,  reports, statistical publications, newsletters, fact sheets, working papers, technical reports, conference proceedings and bibliographies.  This document explores grey literature options in more detail.

Searching for resources

When you start to look for information consider what you already know about the subject , look at the Online Reading Lists and PowerPoint presentations from previous modules. Before you start to search in-depth it is useful to carry out a quick search in Google Scholar or Library Search.  This allows you to see if there is a level of research in the area you are interested, if not it might be necessary to adjust your question.  A review article on a subject is particularly useful at this point as it will give you a snapshot of what is happening in this field of research.  The following page reminds you how to search Library Gateway.

After searching Library Search and Google Scholar, you should carry out an in-depth search in a relevant information database.  Information Databases are specialist services that allow you to search in depth.

Databases are located in the Subject Guides on the Library Gateway. In the Journal tab of the guides you will find the databases that are recommended for  your subject.  To make sure you find a range of information you should use more than one Database. The following videos demonstrate how  to use a selection of databases.

Some inforamtion databases allow you to refine your search by different criteria.  As well as selecting the search terms, you may also need to consider the date range of material, type of research, the population involved and where possible peer review articles should be selected.  These are articles that have been editorially checked before publishing.

Advice on adjusting your search if you do not feel that you have the right number of results:

Citation searching lets you investigate how a journal article has been researched and how that research has been taken forward.This means that one good journal article can give you a number of other leads. Library Search, British Education Index, Scopus and Google Scholar all allow citation searching. 

Managing information

For any project it is important to keep a record of where you have searched and what terms you have used.  You will avoid repetition and save time when planning new searches.  You will also be able to discuss your search methodology as part of your project if required.

ProQuest RefWorks is a web-based reference management tool, available to SHU students, staff and alumni.  It helps you to manage the resources you use and to format citations and reference lists in your work in most common referencing styles. There is an add-on  for Microsoft Word which speeds up adding citations and reference lists to your writing .  Whether you use ProQuest RefWorks or another referencing tool you should always check references and citations before submitting your work.

Learn more about ProQuest Refworks in our Referencing Guide

Set up alerts for your best searches.  When you use Library Search or an information database such as British Education Index you can save searches and set up alerts so you will be notified when something new matches your search.

Use social media to find out what is happening.