Presenting our Faculty Publications – Find your perfect ebook match

Show our Online Education Library * some love this Valentines Day. With browsable ‘shelves’ of ebooks searchable by subject, author or title you can easily select from the extensive range of titles to find your perfect match.
* (Faculty of Education staff and students only)

Here are a few recent titles from our amazing Faculty colleagues, so sit back and take a look.

Firstly, new to the Higher Education section, we have a chapter written by Hilary Cremin in Brantmeier, E., & McKenna, M. (2020). Pedagogy of vulnerability. Information Age.

Chapter 2: Barefoot hope for peace: vulnerability in peace education. Written by Hilary Cremin and Kevin Kester

The book covers topics such as vulnerabilities associated with various identities and vulnerabilities associated with different places, such as study abroad, or learning outdoors. It is not so much a book about reducing vulnerabilities, it is more about claiming vulnerabilities in order to connect and engage with others in meaningful ways, especially through education. This applies especially to people in positions of power and authority, or people who come from dominant groups in society, where the temptation is often to lean into the benefits that power brings rather than opening up to the experiences of others. It is easier to hide behind institutional norms, or to fake confidence, than to engage in deep listening and to be troubled by different perspectives.

It is also easier to act in disembodied ways. As a trainee teacher Hilary was told to fake anger when it was not real, and to hide real anger so as not to be out of control. This lack of genuineness takes its toll, however, both on the bodies of teachers, and on the bodies of young people, who need authenticity and empathic relationships in order to feel safe and to learn. Exposing vulnerability as a teacher in school, or at university level, feels (and is) risky. Hilary and Kevin share their poetry, their shared experiences of childhood disadvantage and the love that binds them and others in the CPERG research group. The love that dares not speak its name. They conclude by drawing on Bel hooks who calls for an acknowledgement of love and eros in processes of teaching and learning. Not of course abusive sexualisation, but the love, desire and passion that is so hard to express in our schools and universities. Kevin and Hilary argue that without love, and the vulnerability that this brings, there is no chance for true connection, learning and growth.

This book will be suitable for all of our students and colleagues with an interest in these topics.” Hilary Cremin

Along with the Cambridge Peace Education Research Group , Hilary Cremin has launched The Poetic Offerings for Peace (POP) website, sending out a daily peace education lesson to support young people and their educators in their online learning.  This is following the Ban treaty (making nuclear weapons illegal) which came into force on 22nd January.

Next, in the Lesson Study section, we have a chapter written by Peter Dudley in Murata, A., & Lee, C. K. (Eds.). (2021). Stepping up lesson study: an educator’s guide to deeper learning. Routledge.

Chapter 3: How case pupils, pupil interviews and sequenced research lessons can strengthen teacher insights in how to improve learning for all pupils. Written by Peter Dudley

“The 150 year-old Japanese collaborative classroom research phenomenon of Lesson Study went global with the publication of ‘The Teaching Gap’ by Americans James Hiebert and Jim Stigler in 1999. Twenty two years on, lesson study is in use in over 80 countries. It is timely, then, that two international ‘giants’ of lesson study have edited a book that focuses on helping practitioners everywhere to ‘go deeper’ into lesson study and so get more from it for their practice and for their pupils. Harvard and Berkely Professor Aki Murata is a distinguished global lesson study scholar and leader who helped introduce lesson study into the US and well beyond. Christine Lee has led the development and implementation of lesson study in Singapore and also globally as past president of the World association of Lesson Studies ( which has launched this WALS-Routledge book series. Perspectives in this book on deepening lesson study knowledge and practice come from Japan, USA, Singapore, UK, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.” Peter Dudley

Moving on to the Children’s Literature section we have an ebook written by Blanka Grzegorczyk:

Grzegorczyk, B. (2020). Terror and counter-terror in contemporary British children’s literature. Routledge.

“Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary British Children’s Literature is about what changed in the connection between children’s fiction and terror after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, and about why the responses to these events have endured through contemporary writing for the young. At a time when new habits of speaking up have already incubated youth-led protest movements that call for action on climate change or demand an end to police brutality and gun violence, it is crucial that we pay attention to how young people are posited as and encouraged to become agents of resistance in fiction. The books examined here, such as Anna Perera’s Guantanamo Boy (2009), Miriam Halahmy’s Hidden (2011), Malorie Blackman’s Noble Conflict (2013), Nikesh Shukla’s Run, Riot (2018), and Muhammad Khan’s I Am Thunder (2018), speak a counter-narrative to the two-tribes rhetoric at the same time that they present violence as the common language of both terrorists and governments. This study maps new connections for scholars, students, and readers of contemporary children’s fiction who are interested in how such writing addresses some of the most pressing issues affecting us today, including survival after terror, migration, and community building.” Blanka Grzegorczyk

Other recent publications by our Faculty Staff include the following….

Blanshard, A. & Stafford, E. (Eds.) (2021). The modern Hercules: images of the hero from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. Brill.

Chapter 8: Demigod, god or monster? Rick Riordan’s Hercules. Written by Frances Foster.
Find this in the Classics section.

Finally, new to the Teachers & Teaching section is an ebook edited by Shawn Bullock, who has also written a chapter.

Kitchen, J., Berry, A., Bullock, S., Crowe, A., Guðjónsdóttir, H., & Taylor, M. (Eds.). (2020). International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices. Springer.

Chapter: Navigating the pressures of self-study methodology (pp. 245-267). Written by Shawn Bullock

Remember you can keep up to date with the full range of Faculty publications via #EdFacPublications.
Faculty of Education staff and students can also view Recently Purchased eBooks that have been added to our Online Education Library.

Welcome to your Education Library Christmas!

Library Team Christmas baubles

Researching around the @EdFacLib tree – have a happy holiday!

The Faculty will be closed from 24th December – 3rd January but fear not! The Education Library Elves have been hard at work to make sure you still have our virtual support, with 24/7 access to the Library Moodle site

Put your feet up, sit in front of the fire, eat a mince pie and browse the shelves of our Online Education Library of ebooks – organised by subject but searchable too! 

When you are sitting back and mulling over your research project or wondering how you’ll find more material on your subject, take a look at our advice on searching for ebooks or journal articles

Our Research Methods Guide will introduce you to ebooks, journal articles and to other literature on different methodologies. 

If you are pondering how to cite that quote from your favourite Christmas story, just pop to our Referencing Guide and find the answer. 

Got any questions? You might find the answers in our FAQs section.   

Blue and Red Santa Sleigh with Gifts Landscape Rectangle Laptop Sticker (1)

If you’re looking to borrow books from the Education Library before the Faculty Christmas closure, use our Click & Collect service! You can place a request until Wednesday 16th December, last date for collection is on Friday 18th December (before 5pm).

Copy of Copy of Final click here button

If you need 1:1 support in literature searching, referencing or using Zotero, don’t forget that you can Click & Connect with your Library Elves! Bookings are available until 5pm on Tuesday 22nd December

Your Education Library Team wish you a very happy Christmas break and we look forward to connecting with you again in the New Year! 

A year in the Education Library…


Looking back over the last year of service in the Education Library it genuinely seems amazing that we’ve got through it all! Between staffing problems and strikes and Covid (oh my!) it’s been a genuine adventure figuring out how to put the pieces together to provide a professional, approachable service for the Education Faculty.

We wanted to take a look back at some of the challenges we have faced over the last year, when essentially we have provided an embedded service for half the year in person, and half the year online, with some of the feedback we’ve received this year along the way.

Half in person…

“You guys have been real life savers throughout the year and the library has been the perfect little bubble in which to focus on my studies.” – PGCE student

Reading Lists: 
The Education Library supports seven different programmes within the Faculty, each with multiple courses, and a big part of this is the summer work in organising reading lists for the coming year. Starting at the end of June, the Library Team researches, updates and creates over 100 reading lists from across the Faculty for the coming academic year. Unlike most faculties, our Michaelmas Term starts in early September with the incoming PGCE Teacher Trainer cohort of over 300 students.

“…an exemplar of an inclusive approach…” – Head of DRC  

In order to make material accessible to every student, whether they are full-time, part-time or studying at a distance, for several years the Library Team has worked closely with academics to ensure that nearly all core readings are accessible electronically — a practice which has proved invaluable during the pandemic. However, the start of 2019-2020 had a few additional piquancies. Changes in the library catalogue meant that many of the thousands of entries in the reading lists had to be changed again AND 1/3 of the Library Team went on maternity leave with uncertainties over cover for their positions! Meaning we started the year with a big question mark around what services we could provide at all.

“I think you (and your colleagues) are doing an amazing job. Many thanks for your time and the care you are taking over [organising reading lists]! Good luck with the other 100 lists!” – Academic staff

New Staff: Luckily, the two positions were filled, and we were able to start the year with a full team! It meant that 1/3 of us were getting trained/up to speed during Michaelmas–the busiest term of the year–but with a lot of long hours and dedication from the entire team we were able to provide a seamless service to our staff and students.

“Just wanted to note how much we appreciate the positive and supportive attitude of the Faculty of Education library staff. I’ve never found its equal anywhere.” – PhD student

Teaching and Inductions: The Library Team were kept busy throughout our time in the Faculty this year, leading over 60 group teaching sessions for students! In addition, we conducted at least another 65 follow-up 1-2-1 appointments with both academic staff and students on referencing and literature searching through our range of resources. Our offer of individual support continues even at a distance, adapting our 1-2-1 in-person service to digital sessions.

“Thank you so very much for the session this afternoon. It was fabulously useful. I’ve been wondering around since with the “I WISH I HAD KNOWN THAT FOR MY MASTERS!’ feeling. […] Thank you. It’s made such a difference to my approach to my subject already.” – EdD student

Half online…

“Once more, the Education Library have shown what a brilliant service they are. Their rapid shift to many more on-line sources and resources has enabled our students the kind of access they need to produce outstanding work. Thank you  Education Library Team from the Faculty of Education!” – Professor Susan Robertson, Head of Faculty

Closing the Library: Between the union strikes during the year and the pandemic, it feels like even for our full-time students we have been running a distance service for at least half the year. Updating our “Digital Library” through the Moodle Site was vital as all of our students became distance learners! We have changed resources and recommendations to re-centre on online resources, expanding our LibGuides and creating new sections to specifically support different forms of dissertations, research methods, as well as online teaching & learning during lockdown.

“…library resources, information and guidance into the very centre of the Faculty’s presence in Moodle…with specific sections for the courses and then generic sections for research, literature review and other guidance.” – Teaching & Learning Systems Team Leader UIS

Needless to say, our distance requests for support have been higher than ever!

“I really don’t know what I would do without you. I am so bad at referencing but you have been a wonderful teacher . Thank you so much!!” – MPhil student

Ebook purchases: In the past year the Library Team received over 700 requests to purchase new material from staff and students! Nearly 400 of these requests were ultimately purchased as ebooks, and added to our Online Education Library. The Online Library has been something the Team has been building and organising for years to support distance and part-time students, but has been an invaluable resource while we plan for teaching to be conducted online.

“This is a brilliantly helpful initiative!” – Head of the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

During the past 4 months we have continued to use our specialised subject knowledge to assess purchase requests for new material in Education on behalf of our Faculty and the University Library — to find the best and most relevant titles for purchase where possible, and researching and recommending similar resources when not. A lot of staff hours and professional expertise goes into expanding our Online Library with high-quality resources, making it easy to use whatever course or research our Faculty members are engaged in.

“Thanks so much for all the support you have provided us students in this time. The ebooks list is absolutely fantastic!” – PhD student

Emails & LibChat: The Library Team email has never exactly been a quiet place. But losing one team member leaving just before lockdown, and the move to providing an entirely online service, it seems to have kept us on our toes more than ever before. In the past week alone we’ve responded to over 200 emails (and this has been a relatively quiet week)!  During lockdown, we have also launched a trial of the LibAnswers App, LibChat. We have had incredibly positive responses from staff and students on both services, and it has certainly been a way to continue maintaining our drop-in service for the Faculty community while we are all working remotely. It’s again through the long-hours and dedication of our team that we have helped our Faculty keep pace with the demand of their learning and research over the last months.

‘Thank you for all of your lovely emails during this challenging time. Thank you again for all your support throughout my three years here. I was very much looking forward to the afternoon cake parties in Easter term and I will treasure the memories I have of the library.” – Undergraduate student


Coming full circle….

‘Thank you again for your amazing support so far. You have been so helpful with all my requests. We are really lucky at the Edu Faculty to have you as our librarians!’ – PhD student

It’s that time again where we are receiving new reading lists every week for the coming year. The team is hard at work sourcing new and existing online resources to support full learning online, which for us begins in September, not to mention the volume of queries from graduate students getting ready to hand in!

Funnily enough, we are yet again facing staff insecurities going into the new academic year, this time with the possibility of operating our service with only half the team. It’s a prospect we’re not looking forward to — not only because we may lose some wonderful colleagues who have been invaluable in supporting Faculty students, staff and researchers throughout 2019-20 — but because sadly we will have to rationalise the services we currently provide to over 1,000 students, and more than 100 academic and research staff and which are so highly valued by our Faculty.

‘The Education Faculty Library provides an excellent service and facilitates the study experiences of all of its students and staff members. Having completed my undergraduate, PGCE and currently my MEd at the Faculty, I can’t but emphasise the importance of having a library and a library team that provide high-quality and specialised services. […] I think the Education Faculty stands out among the Cambridge libraries due to the quality of support given to all students and the wonderful team that always goes the extra mile to make learning an enjoyable and high-quality experience for all.’ – MEd Student


Providing an Online Education Library Service

Team Photo

Like so many other libraries, we were devastated when our physical library closed, because of the strong ties we have with our Education community of students, lecturers and researchers. But we found some comfort in the fact that supporting students remotely was not entirely new. For the Education Library it was a matter of shifting our energies to support the online library we were already running. 


large proportion of our research and student Education community have full-time jobs, or permanently live some distance away from Cambridge. Nearly half of the nine different degree routes we support fall under this category, including a yearly cohort of approximately 300 teacher trainees. So even when we have full access to all the resources of our Library, one of our ongoing goals is finding the best ways for everyone to be able to access the information they need. Over many years, we have developed our Library Moodle site to be a one-stop digital library, providing a portal to reading lists, ebooks and LibGuides tailored to suit the individual needs of our varied user groups. Our development of this site has been a constant self-reflective process, affecting so many of our day-to-day operating decisions, from acquisitions to reading lists to communications. 

online library 2

These are some of the provisions we have already included: 

  • A searchable index of ebookscurated by subject knowledge of the different teaching programmes, updated nearly daily with new purchases 
  • Reading lists for each course, with links to the digital editions of core readings 
  • Referencing Guide showing the correct style for in-text citations and reference list formation for commonly used and obscure resources in line with Faculty guidance, along with advice for setting up our supported referencing software 
  • A tailored Research Methods Libguide, with links to ebooks and online journal articles for different areas of inquiry, currently being updated to reflect new forms ocourse assessment 
  • Literature Searching LibGuide with step-by-step guidance in systematic approaches to literature searching of Education bibliographic databases 



Because of the distributed nature of our Faculty community, the Education Library is often a touchstone for communication and inclusion. We use multi-level approaches to information distribution including Faculty mailing lists, targeted group messaging through Moodle, social media promotions, explanations through the blog and text messaging to groups. By layering how we communicate we are usually able to deliver a strategy which means all students have access to the information.  

Kitchen work

Our experience in supporting distance students and researchers has taught us that libraries are far more than just a room full of books. Our efforts to support our Education community are required to be critical, iterative and self-reflective, because the people we support are. Everything we do is being revised to make sure that it is the best we can offer our community, but that is actually business as usual. We are still a library service. An online library service 


Keeping in Touch

Let’s talk about…..Electronic Legal Deposit

The Education Library works throughout the year to support distance students and researchers. Part of this is answering emails about materials only available in the Library, such as Electronic Legal Deposit (ELD).

Like, A LOT of emails about Electronic Legal Deposit.

So let’s take a few minutes to talk about ELD and try to answer your questions.

Edinburgh Companion 2

If you are not familiar with them, Electronic Legal Deposit (ELD) resources look like the above entry on iDiscover.  As a Legal Deposit Library, the Cambridge University Library is able to claim a single copy of any book published within the British Isles. This is fairly straight forward with physical material, and the Copyright Agency in Edinburgh was set-up by the Legal Deposit libraries (the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and Trinity College Library in Dublin) to organise receiving physical material. The University of Cambridge is the only UK Library which allows its physical Legal Deposit materials to be borrowed!

However, not all materials are deposited physically, and that’s where Electronic Legal Deposit comes in. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, in combination with the passing of the Legal Deposit (Non-Print Works) Regulations in 2013, publishers can now deposit publications electronically.

However, the same restrictions which are in place for physical material are in place for electronic material. This entails things like controlling access and replication of the material. Or, why access to ELD material is restricted to being available to only one reader at a time, the percentage of the material which you can print, and why it is only accessible from designated computers in the Cambridge Libraries.


It is part of the legislation that the material can only be accessed by computers physically controlled by the Legal Deposit Library. Which is why Legal Deposit access computers are available in most Faculty libraries, but not in College libraries: because College libraries are governed by the College and not by the University Library.

It is also part of the legislation that no digital copies of the material can be made, which is why we can’t download a chapter and email the PDF. Material can’t be downloaded to the computers at all, and it is illegal to take pictures of the computer screen with ELD material on it.

This is also why, no matter what the current circumstances are, or whether you are usually a distance student, the ELD material can’t just be ‘opened up’ for access outside of the libraries. ELD material is stored in servers managed by the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, and the British Library, and not controlled by the Cambridge University Library. There isn’t a way for it to be ‘opened up’ for distance access. Even if the Library did have control of the servers, it would still be illegal to do so.

oriana.italy - flickr - public domain

You can read more about searching Electronic Legal Deposit on our ‘Top Tips‘ and ‘When is an ebook not an ebook?‘.  You can also read more on ELD on the UL’s Electronic Legal Deposit Libguide.

However, if the resources you are looking for are only available in ELD format, that doesn’t mean you are without hope! On the Library Moodle Site you can find an extensive Online Library of Education ebooks accessible from anywhere in the world via your RAVEN password. You can search by author or title, or browse sections by subject. You can read more about the Online Education Library via our blog post.  Chances are even if we don’t have a particular book, we probably have something like it.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for (or something similar) in the Online Education Library then just go to the Library Moodle site and click on the green box which says Request an ebook for purchase.  We will investigate availability and price and get back to you as soon as we can.


We’re here to support our Education community.❤ 📚💻


Your Online Education Library

Online Library Banner
Did you know that Education Library organises our ebooks similarly to how we organise books on the library shelves?

It’s true!

Every time we purchase an ebook for one of our delightful staff or students, we add it to an online subject index that can be accessed through the Library Moodle Site. Some sections, like Children’s Literature and Research Methods, are so large that we subdivided them to make it easier to navigate. The same book can show up in multiple sections where we think they are relevant (we never get to do THAT in the Library).

So even though you are working from a distance, and many of our Education students and PGCE trainees always have been, you can still find the books you need from the library!

Online Library

What do we already have?

We have plenty of student-favourites like:

New ebooks are being added to the library almost daily!

The Online Library is your go-to place for Education ebooks, and your Library Team is working hard within our budget to make sure you have all the resources you need.

Still not finding relevant material?

Have you checked the Education databases?


You have access to databases like ERIC, BEI and many more. You can find Literature Searching guidance on the Library Moodle Site, or even check out our previous blog posts on Literature Searching Q&As.

With your Online Library, you have access to high-quality academic material to support your research from anywhere in the world. And you still have access to your Education Library Team.

Any problems? You can always email us at and follow our Twitter, blog and Instagram for library updates.


XOXO – Your Education Library Team

Kitchen work


Closed, But Not Gone.


We have tried to be in contact with all of our staff and students about the Education Library. Following the Vice-Chancellor’s message on 18 March, the University libraries were all closed to students from 5pm on that day.

We were happy to see all of the students who came to get last minute books in the very few hours we had between the message and closing our doors. But more than anything we want to convey to anyone who is now worried about this closure that while we will not be operating in our physical library for the foreseeable future, you still have access to your Lovely Education Library Team, and all the support we can give you through our Digital Library.

If there is anything we can do to help with your studies, we are here at the other end of every email to, through the Library text messages, and through our social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram. Email, text, tweet, don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions.

In the meantime, here are a few things we are doing:

  • The Library Moodle Site is still your go-to place for distance resources and guides. We’re constantly updating it to be accessible and relevant to your needs!
  • We are not recalling any books. We have no place for you to send them anyway. But if there’s a book you need access to, fill in the ‘Recall a book’ form on the Library Moodle Site and we will look into purchasing an ebook if one exists.
  • We’ve made suggesting ebooks for purchase easier than ever! There is a box at the top of the Library Moodle Site to ‘Request an ebook for purchase’. We’ll do our best to either get it for you, or recommend something similar that you already have access to.
  • Re-vamping our 1-2-1s. We’re not sure what this is going to look like yet, but our goal is to support you and your studies, however that looks like. Get in touch if you have any ideas, questions, or just need a good librarian chat.
  • Problems finding a journal article? Just get in touch, same as always, and we’ll see what we can do!

Obviously everything we know about courses, terms and submissions is uncertain. There are many things we are all worrying about at the moment. But we’re still here so that resource access doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them.

Stay safe. Keep your spirits up. Let us know how we can help.

We miss all of our lovely students already.


XOXO – Your Education Library Team



Literature Searching Q&A #4 Evaluate & Manage

Welcome to the fourth edition of our blog series about literature searching using online bibliographic databases!

We have an in-depth Library Guide (click here to access through the Library Moodle site in the Library Guides section), which includes information on how to plan your search, tips for effective searching, a list of recommended databases and more! Through this series we wanted to answer some frequently asked questions, so we hope you will find this Q&A a useful addition to the guide.

magnifying glass



How can I ensure I am finding the best articles/journals?

One of the advantages of using a bibliographic database is that they index high quality (often peer reviewed) material so you can be sure that you are accessing material that is suitable to use for your studies.  If you are careful in planning your search and ensure you select appropriate search terms, you should achieve relevant results.

Some journals also have impact factors which are generated from the average number of times articles published within a particular journal title have been cited.  Altmetric scores also provide an indication of citation but both should be used with caution as articles can be cited numerous times because they are a particularly bad example of research!  More information is available on the Evaluate section of the Searching for Journal Articles tab of the Literature Searching Guide.

How do I judge the usefulness of the articles once I have found them?

Once you have found articles on the database, there are a number of methods for determining how relevant they are to your own research before fully reading the article. Look at the key words which come up with the article title. Are any of those red flags that this isn’t relevant? Next read the Abstract. Is there any reason you shouldn’t read it? In the beginning it is normal to read quite a bit, as you need to cover quite a broad area to be able to determine what is and is not relevant to your research. Critical evaluation skills will develop with this reading. It is good to bear in mind that some of the key elements of a Literature Search are Revisiting Search Results, and Refining the search based on what you find. You can see guidance on the process of Literature Searching in the Guide on the Library Moodle Site.



How can I keep track of the references I find?

The best way to keep track of your citations is to use reference management software. The Faculty recommends using Zotero, which can be freely downloaded. You can organise your references into folders and tag them with topics, as well as saving PDFs. It will then format your in-text citations and bibliography into APA referencing style when you come to writing. You can find more information on downloading and using Zotero in the Manage section of the Searching for Journal Articles tab on the Literature Searching Guide.


How do I open the article?

Some databases (such as ERIC) include the full text, for any other references use the ejournals@cambridge link to check whether there is online access to a particular article.  In some cases, material may not be available online but may be held in print in one of the libraries in Cambridge.



More advice, and step-by-step examples can be found on the Literature Searching Guide on the Library Moodle site. But if you are struggling to find relevant articles, or figuring out search strategies, or even to access articles once you find them, please don’t think you have to struggle alone. You can email the library team with any questions at, or book a 1-2-1 session through the Library Moodle site.


Like this blog? Make sure to check out the previous blog posts in this series on General Questions, Planning your search, and Searching

Literature Searching Q&A #3 Search

Welcome to the third edition of our blog series about literature searching using online bibliographic databases!

We have an in-depth Library Guide (click here to access through the Library Moodle site in the Library Guides section), which includes information on how to plan your search, tips for effective searching, a list of recommended databases and more! Through this series we wanted to answer some frequently asked questions, so we hope you will find this Q&A a useful addition to the guide.


What is Boolean logic?

Using Boolean logic when searching databases enables you to connect your search terms together to narrow or broaden your search results. The three basic Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT.  Use OR to combine synonyms of related terms and ideas together.  Use NOT to exclude terms which may have a different meaning or relevancy to those for which you are searching. Use AND to combine sets of synonym searches to find material which contains both. See the diagram below for an example of using OR and AND:

Copy of Untitled(1)

How do I enter my search terms in a database?

Having a systematic approach to searching will enable you to retrieve relevant references for your research. You can do this by searching for each concept in your research question separately, using groupings of identified synonyms. Then, combine these sets of individual terms together using Boolean logic, as illustrated above. This allows you greater control over the search terms and the ability to modify the results to best suit your inquiry.

Following the example in the diagram above:

  • First – search the database for terms related to ‘Ability Grouping’ – use a thesaurus to help you if one is included in the database (BEI, ERIC and PsychINFO all include a thesaurus).  Terms selected from a thesaurus will automatically be combined using the OR operator; if you are identifying your own synonyms ensure you use OR to combine them together.
  • Second – carry out a separate search for concepts related to ‘Mathematics Education’ and combine them together using the OR operator – don’t worry, the previous search will automatically have been saved by the database.
  • Third – combine the two searches with the AND operator to find the intersection between the two sets of references.

This should produce a set of relevant results, i.e. journal articles about  both concepts.

I haven’t found enough articles, how can I broaden my search?

If your search produces too few results, then try to broaden the scope of your search by broadening your topic. You can do this either by adding more synonyms to your search or by going back to the thesaurus and selecting broader terms. For example, when searching for ‘Autistic Education’ also include broader language, such as ‘Special Educational Needs’ and its acronym ‘SEN’. This will retrieve results which may be still relevant to your research question, but may not be covered by the original choice of narrower search terms.  Another option is to use truncation to increase the number of results; for example, search for educat* to include all the different endings of the word in your search (e.g. education, educational, educating, etc).


I have found too many articles, how can I narrow my search?

There are several ways to narrow down a search. You can alter the initial synonym search by choosing more specific language from the thesaurus – narrower terms. For example, searching for ‘Music Education’ (narrower term) instead of ‘Arts Education’ (broader term). You could also add another synonym search. For example, in the diagram above, the search is combining ‘Ability Grouping’ AND ‘Mathematics Education’. If you were specifically interested in Primary Mathematics Education you could add another synonym search for age-related topics. See the diagram below:

lit search blog

Another way to narrow your results further would be to limit the date range of the results, for example to articles published in the last 10 years.


What if these articles don’t seem relevant for my research?

You may need to rethink your search terms and conduct different combinations of searches to ensure you get the most relevant results. It may be necessary to broaden the search terms you are using, before narrowing it down with cross-searches. If the database you are using has a thesaurus, it can be useful to look at how the terms you are using have been defined for that database. If you are having problems finding relevant material you can always book a 1-2-1 session with a member of the Library Team via the Moodle site.

Are there any hints & tips for searching?

* Don’t try to combine too many sets of terms in any one search with AND – the more sets you use, the narrower your search will be and the greater the risk of there being no hits at all. Combining 2 or 3 sets is usually best.

* If there are no suitable terms in the thesaurus (many newer terms aren’t) you can search for your own term in the Title Field of the Advanced Search box.  If it consists of more than one word, remember to enclose the term in speech marks. You can then check the subject terms (i.e. thesaurus terms) for the article references you find and use those to search further.

* Look at the list of subject headings in relevant articles and make a note of any that look interesting or relevant for use in subsequent searches.

* Check the references at the end of any relevant article you find – some databases provide links to the references and also to articles which have cited the paper you’re interested in.


Does every database work in the same way?

You can find specific guidance on searching different databases on the Literature Searching Guide, but the databases highlighted there all work in very similar ways using the Boolean operators covered here.

Note that the coverage and thesaurus terms can differ between databases, so it is important to remember to modify your terminology when you are searching depending on which database you are using.

What is the benefit of setting up an account on the databases?

Creating an account is useful for saving searches, as it allows you to keep track of the search terms you have used and then to rerun these searches to check for any additional new publications.


For more information on searching for journal articles go to our Literature Searching guide, click on the ‘Searching for Journal Articles’ tab near the top of the web page and select ‘Search’ in the drop down menu or in the ‘Literature Searching Cycle box’. Click here to access the guide via the Library Moodle site, found in the Library Guides box.



Did you find this helpful? Check out our previous blogs in the series on Database FAQs: General questions and  Planning your search. Watch this space for the final installment next week, Evaluating Search Results!