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EDUC 6603 Module 2 Application: Module 2 Application

Your literature review

For Part B of your Week 2 Application, you will find articles and create a literature review of 3-5 sources. This guide covers:

Generate keywords

Construct and refine your search

Identify original research studies

Primary and secondary sources

Decide upon your wondering

In your courseroom, see the Week 2 Resources about "wonderings" for ideas and help to refine your own "wondering"—the question related to your specialization that you want to investigate. Also consider your classmates' feedback on your wondering from the Week 2 Discussion.

Generate keywords

Capture the main ideas of your wondering topic with terms that you would expect to see in an article's title or abstract. Brainstorm keywords in advance, for example:

Topic: How does limited access to technology affect the success of low-income students?

technology student success low income
computers student achievement poverty
internet academic achievement poor
digital divide


Focus on the main concepts, avoiding words that are vague or implied. For example, "affect" could be phrased many ways: impact, impede, hinder, inhibit, etc. A correlation between the concepts is implied. Rather than trying to guess every possible word an author might use, leave it out. 

The term low income might look incomplete, but it captures low-income student, low-income family, low-income household, etc. Likewise, you might instead use simply success or achievement.

Learn more about keyword searching.

Construct and refine your search

  1. Choose a database (see suggestions at left).

  2. Construct your search. For example:

    Search boxes in ERIC database. In the first box is: digital divide or technology or internet. In the second box is: academic achievement or student achievement or student success. In the third box is: poverty or poor or low income.

    Note: Use or between terms to search for any of the terms—only one needs to appear in the article title, abstract, etc. Learn more about using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT). 

    Tip: Limit your search to recent, scholarly articles. See the box on the left, Limit your results. 

  3. Click Search. See if the articles are relevant by reading titles and abstracts. Learn about identifying original research studies (the next box down).

  4. If you need to refine your search to improve results, examine the Subjects (available in ERIC and Education Source). Subjects are the official, preferred terms for concepts within a database. If you search using these terms, you will find more precise results. They can also give you ideas for aspects you haven't considered.

    Article information with these subject terms highlighted: access to computers, disadvantaged, socioeconomic status, and achievement gap.

    Add these terms to your search or use them instead of your original keywords. Learn more about using subject terms.

Tip: Though you need only 3-5 articles, examine more. You should include the best of what's available—what's most relevant and useful for your wondering. If you look at only 3 sources, you will likely miss important research.  

Identify original research studies (primary sources)

After a search, read article titles and abstracts to see if they address your topic and look for indications that the author(s) conducted original research. (Click an article title to see its abstract.)

Some abstracts clearly identify the major components of an original research study:

Article abstract with section headings highlighted: Purpose, Design/methodology/approach, Findings, and Originality/Value


Other abstracts are less structured but still readily indicate whether it's a research study:

Abstract with the following highlighted: quantitative and qualitative data were collected, analyzed, and compared; results of the study revealed; quantitative data did not reveal; qualitative data indicated; results of the study have implications.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

A Primary Source is any material where the author presents his or her own research, theory, ideas, or experience.

  • a research article outlining the methodology and outcomes of the author/authors' research
  • The US Census
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau

A Secondary Source analyzes and discusses primary sources.

  • a literature review article in a peer-reviewed journal
  • a book about Freud's theories written by a psychology researcher
  • an encyclopedia article

NOTE: you must look at a source to tell if it's primary or secondary. 

Some primary sources will include secondary source material, such as the literature review portion of a research article.