Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Doctoral Program - Educational Leadership: Advanced Strategies

Advanced Searching Strategies

Your previous library research sessions have reviewed library resources and services, basic search strategies for locating books, articles and dissertations, and how to set-up and use Zotero.  This session builds on that foundation.  Topics covered include advanced searching strategies with the goal of reviewing a body of literature, citation mining (using what you have to find more), and staying organized.

If you would like to review previous topics, check out the tabs above:

  • Document Delivery & My Account to review basic services such as Request it! (to have items delivered to your home), ILLiad (our interlibrary loan system - use it to borrow items from other libraries) and My Account (to see what you have checked out, renew items, and more). 
  • Books tab and Articles tab contain tutorials and links to commonly searched resources

Don't hesitate to contact us with questions.

Searching the Literature - Advanced Strategies

Advanced Searching Strategies - Remember library research is iterative and can be non-linear. 

  • Define your search topic and outline the concepts, keywords or synonyms. Consider using a:
    • Concept Map
    • Research Strategy Worksheet
  • Determine the type of information needed.  Current?  Scholarly?  Seminal/Classic?  Qualitative?  Quantitative?  "Literature Review"?  You can specify. 
  • Select a database. Who is interested in your topic?  What disciplines?  Think about searching in those discipline-specific databases.
  • Construct an Advanced Search using concepts/keywords/synonyms and the type of information you want. 
  • Tweak and repeat as needed.

These search features vary between products.  Explore:

  • Thesaurus - See how terms are defined within a database

  • Field Searching - You can specify in which fields your terms are searched.  What happens when you limit search terms to the TI (title) field?  AB (abstract) field?  SU (subject) field? 
    • What are the field definitions?  They differ.  See the database help screens for details.
  • Limits - Review the options.
  • Staying organized:
    • Think about using a source matrix or research log.
    • Use Zotero to capture pdfs, citations, etc. 

Examining what you've found:

  • Is the title scholarly?
    • Within the database search, choose the Limit for Scholarly/Peer-reviewed.  or
    • When looking at a citation within a database, click the journal title until you reach the Publication Details.  Look for the "Peer reviewed" field.  or
    • Look up the journal title in the Serials Directory.  Look in the "Refereed" field.  Refereed = Peer Reviewed
  • Review the item's bibliography for additional leads. 
    • That leads back in time to related works.  Search by book or journal title.
    • Use Google Scholar to move forward in time to see who has cited the article you have.  Cited By
  • What other disciplines are interested in your topic?  Consult the library databases page.  You may need to tweak your terms.  A word can have a different meaning in another discipline. 

Google Scholar:

  • Four reasons to use Google Scholar:
    • As a search tool, in conjunction with discipline specific databases like Education Source and ERIC
    • To find the full text of articles
    • To see who has cited a relevant article - Cited By - which can lead to more recent articles on a topic
    • Locate an article using the DOI (digital object identifer).  Enter the identifer:  10.3402/edui.v5.23417  (don't include "DOI")
  • Best practices when using Google Scholar:
    • Use Google Scholar via the library homepage.  Entering on the homepage will ensure you are not prompted to pay for articles to which the library subscribes.
    • Use Advanced Search to refine your search by date, author, phrase and more

Finding Dissertations

As you are researching topics you will discover a variety of literature, including articles, books, dissertations, conference reports, government documents, and more. 

If your goal is to limit your search to the dissertation literature, see the options below. 
Note:  There is not a single resource in which all dissertations are indexed and freely available.

ASU and other UNC school dissertations:

~  From ~ 2010 - present, search NC Docks

To find ASU dissertations:  Limit to ASU, Limit to Type, and Doctoral Dissertations.


Proquest's Dissertation and Thesis Open (PQDT Open) database provides the full text of open access dissertations and theses -- free of charge. 

~  Search by topic or see the other search options
~  Open Access full-text dissertations display in the search results


ERIC database -  There is a option to Limit by Publication Type and the search results will then display only dissertations.

~  Enter your topic search
~  Select Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations OR one of the other choices from the Pub Type listing.
~  Consider if you want to also select Full Text. If you do not need full text immediately, you can use ILLiad to request a dissertation via interlibrary loan.
~  The results page provides citations & abstracts.  Those available full text will have links, Full Text from ERIC.

WorldCat - contains worldwide library records, can Limit by Publication Type and Internet Resources

~  Search for:  Enter a topic search
Limit type to:   Internet Resources
Subtype limits:   Any Content  >>  select Thesis/dissertation from the drop down menu
~  The results page will provide dissertation citations & abstracts.  Some of the Access links will be to full-text dissertations, abstracts only, or commercial pay sites


Purchasing a dissertation is an option via ProQuest Order a Dissertation

Tutorials & Handouts

Staying Organized

When you are involved in a lengthy research project you will want to stay organized. 

Useful strategies can include:

  • Starting with a concept map to visually explore topic.
  • Using a research strategy worksheet to explore terms and strategies.
  • Keeping track of what you have searched and in what databases/resources:
    • Create a research log -- use Word or similar. 
      • It is useful to note:  database/search engine used, terms searched, etc.
      • Sample:   Library Research Log      (Template developed by Ms. Glenn Ellen Starr-Stilling)
  • Using Zotero or similar citation management software to capture citations, pdfs, create bibliographies and more.
  • Creating a source matrix which allows you to summarize key facts and then review them in summary form.