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FQAS: Curriculum and Assessment Research Guide

Research and resource guide for Faculty Quality Assurance System (FQAS) course Curriculum and Assessment project.

Research (Videos and Tips)

database search term icon

The question you are trying to answer needs to be turned into searchable terms and broken down into its key components. You may also find that there are additional qualifiers that you want to add to your searches to make sure that your results and your research are leading you to a meaningful answer to your essential question (the big picture).  Make a list of these to use in your search.


Essential Question

"How can I use assessments to improve student learning and engagement in my course(s)?"  research question icon

Broad topic: assessments 

Additional qualifiers (mix and match): These are examples, not an exhaustive list. 

  • learning
  • engagement
  • higher education, college, classroom
  • writing, nursing, business, STEM
  • formative, summative, performance-based
  • first-generation college students, adult learners

Teacher Reference Center is one of the EBSCO databases (and one of Ellen's favorites for education research). This video walks you through some basic searching using this interface.

Time stamps for specific content in the video:

0:00-0:30 Accessing and getting in
0:30-1:00 Overview of Teacher Reference Center database
1:00-2:00 Search Terms, Basic versus Advanced Search
2:00-2:15 Limits, filters from the Advanced Search page
2:15-3:10 Navigating and scanning results
3:10-4:00 More filters, limiting from the results page
4:00-4:50 Article details page and article abstract
4:50-6:00 Saving, emailing articles, grabbing article citations
6:00-6:50 Saving a permanent link to the article
6:50-7:00 Back to the results page
7:00-7:50 Refining and targeting search
7:50-8:00 Encouragement if you're not finding what you need
8:00-9:30 Additional search and navigation strategies

ERIC is another excellent resource for this kind of education research. The video below demonstrates searching navigating results, and getting full text articles.

Time stamps for specific content in the video:

0:00-1:00 About ERIC and comments about getting full text
1:00-2:00 Basic and Advanced Searching
2:00-5:00 Navigating Results and Using Filters
5:00-6:50 Individual Article page and full text
6:50-8:24 Using the Thesaurus to suggest and find terms


General Search Tips and Tools to Notice

  • Search using keywords and subject terms, not complete sentences or questions. Search terms and keywords icon

For example: [summative assessment] is much better than [how I know what my students have learned]

  • Combine concepts with AND to search for multiple concepts simultaneously

For example: [curriculum AND assessment]

  • Use the asterisk wildcard character* to include alternate forms and plurals.

For example: [assess*] will return hits for assess, assessment, assessments, assessing, assesses, etc. all in a single search

  • Use "quotation marks" around your search to keep terms together and search them as a single unit.

For example: ["performance-based learning"]

  • Make use of handy database tools to find and save information about your resources. (In the image below, I've annotated the options as they appear in the EBSCO databases).
    • Use the database options to Download, Save, and/or Email each article, per your preference.
    • If you're saving links, be sure to save the permanent link, NOT the session URL in your browser.
    • Snag the citation for each article and paste it in your working bibliography. Doing it on the front side is such a time saver (trust me on this one). Look for a button that says "cite" or "citation."

database article icon

Vary your searches and try out a variety of related search terms. Don't get tunnel vision and unintentionally limit or bias your results. 

save, cite, download record information

Librarian icon


Please, reach out to me if you get stuck, if you aren't finding what you need, or you just want to talk through your research with someone.  

A Few Web Searching Tips (Google and Google Scholar)

In addition to searching using education databases, it's often a good idea to do some quick searching on the open web just to get a sense of what's there. This will retrieve results that are intended for consumption by the general public (as opposed to exclusively academics). 

Additionally, Google searching is familiar and may feel more comfortable than searching in library databases. The downside is that there will be much more irrelevant, unvetted content that gets retrieved. There is also a lot of content stuck behind paywalls, which can be frustrating. 

Here are a few reminders and tips for searching effectively and efficiently:

  • Focus your search on they key issues of your research topic or question. Use nouns, not full sentences.  
  • Critically examine and evaluate the results list and any web pages you visit. What is the source of the information? What is its credibility?
  • Try using Google Scholar ( to search for research articles. Save yourself time and frustration later by skimming the results list for options with full text available. Full text options will appear linked in the right column, circled in the screenshot below.
    full text available via Google Scholar appears next to some entries

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