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TCH 204 - Elementary Education: Practices & Issues


When searching for scholarly sources in research databases, you will need to prepare to use keywords. Unlike Google, databases and most academic search systems value precision over recall. This means, that the system looks for exactly what you are asking for rather than making assumptions about what you might be interested in. This has two main effects:

  1. You can filter out the fluff or peripherally related material more easily.
  2. If you are asking for something that the system doesn't understand, you will miss things.

So, how do ask for something in a way that the system understands? You have to anticipate what language the resources use and the language the database(s) use to talk about those resources. 

The first way to do this is using keywords. Essentially, these are words that reflect the main idea of your topic succinctly. 

My topic might be virtual reality and elementary education, but those won't be my only keywords. You also need to consider synonyms or alternate ways to communicate the same of similar ideas. Sometimes we might say "remote learning" and a database or scholars writing an article will call it "distance education." I often use a chart like the one below to come up with my keywords. 

  Synonyms Related Terms
Virtual Reality vr

computer simulation

artificial environment

Elementary Education primary education

1st grade or 2nd grade or 3rd grade or 4th grade or 5th grade

Grade one or grade two or grade three or grade four or grade five

The second way is using subject headings. These are essentially keywords that the system or database has selected as their preferred term to talk about a given idea. You can discover these either by looking at the subject terms listed for an on-topic article that you find, or by searching in the thesaurus of a database with a keyword. 

Please note! Subject headings may be inconsistent across different databases. 

For example, the subject heading for virtual reality is 'virtual reality in education' in the database Education Full Text, but 'computer simulation' in ERIC.