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Education Research Basics: Education Research Basics

Which Library Tool Should I Use?

The library has a wide variety of resources available, and there are several different research tools you can use to access them.

Which one should you pick?

What is Peer Review?

Peer-reviewed journal articles are evaluated by experts in the field prior to publication.

Many of the library databases include a peer review limit.

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. 

What is a Classic Article?

Classic works are ones that have had a major impact in a field of study.

As you go through your program, you will become familiar with classic works because they will be mentioned frequently in textbooks, research articles, and other resources.

It is more difficult to identify classic articles as a new student.  Here are some hallmarks of classic works:

  • frequently cited by other authors
  • written by major theorists or researchers
  • often called influential, seminal, or groundbreaking in literature reviews

To find classic works, you can try the three following strategies:

Look at the number of times the article has been cited.

Google Scholar is a useful tool for this type of search.

Search for articles that are at least 10 years old.  Then look for a number next to Cited by under the article information. This tells you how many times it has been cited in other books and articles.

There is no specific number of times an article needs to be cited to be classic. It depends on the age and popularity of the topic. Look for items that are cited more often than your other results of similar age.

Learn how to link Google Scholar to the Walden Library.


Look for articles and books written by major theorists.

You can find the names of major theorists listed in textbooks, encyclopedias, and informational websites.  The Walden Library has a collection of encyclopedias you can search.  The Further Readings area often lists major works on the topic. For more information see our Theories and Theorist guide.

Once you've identified the name of a theorist, you can search for articles by that theorist. You can do this by searching for the name, last name first, and changing Select a Field (optional) to AU Author using the drop-down menu. A good database for this search is Education Source.


Look for articles that are frequently referenced in the literature you have on your topic. 

Read through the bibliography and the literature review sections of several related articles to see if they cite the same sources, or mention specific sources as being influential.

In a literature review you might see information that mentions a theorist and his classic work on the topic. For example, in an article on andragogy, you might see that Malcom Knowles is mentioned as important to the principles of andragogy. The same article may list Knowles' book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. These are clues that this theorist and work are important to the idea of andragogy.


Helpful Links

Database vs. publishing company

EBSCO and ProQuest are often confused as databases.  They are actually two popular publishing companies that provide the Library with numerous academic database packages.  Walden contracts with them to provide you with access to a large assortment of resources, including journals, books and tests.


In any EBSCO database, from the Advanced Search page, you will find the name of the specific database listed right above the search boxes after Searching. For example, if you see Searching: Education Source, you are using the Education Source database.

You can change databases or add additional databases to your search.

  • Above the search boxes, to the right of the name of the specific database you are searching, click on Choose Databases.
  • This opens a box with a list of other EBSCO company databases. You can choose additional databases to add to your search by checking the box in front of the database name, and then clicking OK when you are finished.




In ProQuest, from the Advance Search page, you will see the name of the specific database you are using at the top of the page, under the ProQuest banner. For example, you might see Nursing & Allied Health Database listed if that is the database you were using.

To change databases, click on the Change databases link found under the name of the database at the top of the page.


This opens the Select Databases page, where you will see a list of options. Many of the options will already be checked. You may need to uncheck databases you do not want to include in a search, and possibly check others that you do.

Once you have made your choices, click the Use selected databases button toward the top of the page.