Searching the Higher Education Literature

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This section provides strategies on how to search the higher education literature in order to help you find evidence for your own practice and research.

Begin by brainstorming keywords

Example topic: I want to research how the flipped classroom might influence engagement in an undergraduate classroom

  • List keyword and related terms to find sources relevant to your topic:

alt= concept 1 keyword flipped classroom, related terms blended learning, concept 2 keyword undergraduate, related terms postsecondary, higher ed

Search tip

Consider the following strategies to help you create an effective search:

  • Become familiar with using Boolean operators to optimize your search strategy
    • Use AND to focus your search: Flipped classroom AND college
    • Use OR to expand your search: Participation OR motivation
  • Use truncation to look for multiple endings of a root word:
    • Flip*= flipped, flipping, flip
    • post*secondary = post-secondary, post secondary, postsecondary
    • “teaching strateg*” = teaching strategy, teaching strategies
  • Further useful tips for searching keywords can be found on the UTL website which includes a concept map to help you visualize the different aspects of your topic and to create keywords.

Write a Search Statement

Use the search tips explained above to search for sources on your topic in a database. Here is an example of a keyword search conducted in ERIC’s ‘Advanced Search’ that maps the above table into this database:

alt= search terms "flipped classroom*" OR "blended learning", undergraduate OR "post*secondary" OR "higher education" OR college, engagment OR participation OR motivation


Manage Your Results

  • Maintain a research question and keyword inventory as you undertake your search. Some tips:
    • E-mail search terms and results to yourself
    • Sign up for a researcher account in databases you are searching to save previous searches
    • Use citation management software and keep screenshots of results in Google Docs.

Stay Current

  • Set up alerts in databases to be notified when new research is published in your area (e.g., Browzine, Google Alerts, author alerts, saved search alerts)

University of Toronto Libraries Resources

The SoTL Research Guide (developed by Mindy Thuna and Joanna Szurmak, Liaison Librarians) highlights key journals and databases for searching the scholarship of teaching and learning literature.

See the  CTSI-SoTL video below to learn more about  the benefits of and strategies to engage in SoTL research.

Additional resources: