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School Psychology

Developing a Topic and Research Question

Research often starts by figuring out what topic you're interested in.  From Positive Behavior Support (PBIS) to the use of schema-based instruction, there are many topics that you can find by reading your textbook, journals, and newspapers.  You might have heard about Common Core Standards on the news and wish to research these standards further.  You might be working with students with autism and wondering about self-management interventions.  After you develop a topic, you'll want to focus your research by creating a research question.  

Example Research Questions

What is the effect of Phonological Awareness intervention on reading comprehension for students with ASD? 

Is the Picture Exchange Communication System an effective communication device for people with visual impairments? 

What are unique considerations when teaching English learners with disabilities? 

Developing Keywords

After you have a research question, your next step is to develop keywords that you'll use when searching in library databases or Google Scholar.  

Research Question: What are the effects of Social Stories on the behaviors of children with ASD?

Example Keywords: 

Social Stories 



Develop Related Terms/Synonyms

Have you ever searched in a database and returned zero results?  Using synonyms and related terms in your search will help to prevent that from happening.  If you search "ASD" in a database it will not return articles that include the words "Autism Spectrum Disorder" but that don't mention ASD.  Therefore, it's important to include "ASD" in your search as well as "Autism Spectrum Disorder".   

NOTE: If you are searching for a phrase such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or North Korea or Play Therapy, make sure to put quotation marks "" around the phrase.  Capitalization does not matter in databases. Think about using academic terminology; an example of academic terminology might be the word influenza (a research article would use the term influenza rather than the term flu).   

Keywords (including related terms and synonyms):

"social stories", "social story"

behavior, tantrum, "striking out"

ASD, autism, "Autism Spectrum Disorder" 

Combine Your Keywords and Related Terms with Boolean Operators

Instead of writing full sentences in databases, you write your keywords and you use Boolean Operators between the keywords.  Boolean Operators are: AND, OR, NOT.  For More information about Boolean Operators click here.  Connect your synonyms/related terms with OR surrounded by parentheses and connect your main concepts with AND.  

Search String: 

("Social Stories" OR "Social Story") AND (Behavior OR tantrum OR "striking out") AND (ASD OR Autism OR "Autism Spectrum Disorder")

If you copy and paste the above search string into a database such as ERIC, you'll have many relevant results to look through and read.