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EDLS496 (Senior Seminar: Education and Professional Ethics): Getting Started

Resources to help you complete your literature review for EDLS496. Note: This LibGuide was originally created by Kimberley Stephenson.

Before You Begin

If you haven't done many research papers, you may want to review the "How to Start a Research Project" LibGuide. It has helpful tips for breaking your assignment into manageable steps, as well as suggestions for developing more effective search strategies.

Look for Background Information on Your Topic

For the purposes of this guide, I'm going to assume you've already selected a topic for your paper. Before you dive into searching for books and articles on that topic, it's important that you have a good background knowledge of the subject.

Looking at a few scholarly reference books (such as dictionaries and encyclopedias) can give you that background information. At APU, we have hundreds of specialized, scholarly dictionaries and encyclopedias--far beyond the basic Encyclopedia Britannica. Scholarly encyclopedias can tell you what research has already been done on your topic, along with which authors and sources are the most important to know about. They can also help you discover narrower aspects of your broad topic so that your topic is more manageable, and make you familiar with the vocabulary used in your field. Often a scholarly reference book will give you a short, authoritative overview of your topic and suggest additional sources for you to read. In essence, reading a reference article can save you time and give you a head-start on your project!

There are two ways to find scholarly reference books. First, you can do a keyword search of the APU Library Catalog for your topic, limiting your search to the Reference collection (use the drop-down "View Entire Collection" menu and choose "Reference"). Second, you can search for your topic in an online reference database, such as one of the following:

As an example, let's say you're interested in writing a paper about learning styles in the elementary school classroom. Before you start looking for books and articles, try looking up "learning styles" in a database like SAGE eReference. You'll see a list like this:

SAGE eReference results for learning styles

Clicking on one of the links pulls up a brief article that gives you a history of research on learning styles, along with a list of important books and articles. Here's a snippet:

Once you've found background information on your topic, you can proceed to the next step: finding books on your topic.

Your Librarian

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Evelyn Shimazu Yee
Azusa Pacific University
Marshburn Memorial Library |
901 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, CA. 91702 | (626) 815-6002 (direct) ext. 6002 (internal)
(626) 815-6002 (direct) Ext. 6002 (internal)

Need More Help?

I'm happy to help if you'd like one-on-one help with your research, feel free to contact me at to make an appointment.

If you'd like help with the writing process, APU has a great Writing Center in Marshburn Library. You can even schedule appointments online