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Early Childhood Education

Getting Started

What is your information need?

If you know what you're looking for, you'll be better able to recognize it when you've found your answer. Defining your information need helps you know where to start looking. What information do you need? What information do you already have on the subject? What facts or background information do you already know? Do you want general or specific information about the subject? How much information do you want? A single fact? A paragraph? An entire book? What types of information do you want? What information sources (databases, library catalogs, encyclopedias, the Internet) will help you find the information you need? 

Begin with a Research Plan

  1. Brainstorm topics you are interested in - Choose your topic
  2. Review your assignment requirements
  3. Brainstorm keywords and synonyms that define your topic - Gather background information
  4. Gather more background information and find relevant resources
  • Examine your assignment and identify any requirements.
  • Define and explore your topic. Try narrowing your topic down or broadening it.
  • Clearly state your research question, what question are you trying to answer?
  • What keywords and synonyms are related to your topic?
  • Develop a thesis and specific ideas you would like to explore.
  • Determine the types of information and resources you need and where you might look
  • Find resources related to your topic. 
  • Evaluate what you have found against your research questions and assignment. Evaluate the quality of your sources.
  • Begin extracting information from your sources and document where you are getting the information from. Create references and citations for your sources. 
  • Write your paper or assignment

Picking your Topic

Search Terms & Keywords

Keywords are the most important words for the research portion of your assignment. These are the main words that you will use when describing the information your need to find in the library and on the Internet.

Keywords will be related to your selected topic. For example:

  • Rousseau AND naturalism OR experiential learning
  • Froebel AND play
  • Montessori AND self-directed learning
  • Montessori AND play
  • Vygotsky AND "social development theory" OR "social interaction" OR scaffolding
  • Vygotsky AND sociocultural learning
  • Erikson AND psychosocial development
  • Skinner AND behaviorist theory OR consequences OR positive reinforcement
  • Skinner AND rewards
  • Bruner AND (constructivism OR environment)
  • Bronfenbrenner AND ecological systems theory
  • Bronfenbrenner AND (family OR community)
  • Gardner AND multiple intelligences
  • Heathcote AND mantle of the expert
  • Play based learning AND (Froebel OR Montessori OR Vygotsky)
  • Piaget AND cognitive development
  • Erikson AND psychosocial development AND emotions
  • Rousseau AND child centred
  • Noddings AND caring OR nurturing

You can think of different keywords for each of these topics, some will be more specific and some more broad. This is important because people who write about these ideas may use different words to talk about the same ideas. See below for some ideas to get you started.

Keyword Concept Mapping

Generate Synonyms & Similar Ideas

Use this example to help you think of different keywords for your topic. The example topic is writing about a child behaviour theorist.

  • Synonyms: learning, education, 
  • Different spellings: child, children, childhood, "early childhood", child*
  • Similar ideas: play, "play based learning", social growth, emotional growth, child focused
  • Narrower terms: interpersonal, infant, "knowledge structures", scaffolding, child centred, "early childhood"
  • Broader terms: children, youth

Refer to a search engine, thesaurus, or even Wikipedia for ideas on synonyms

Use keywords to find reliable sources. Evaluate all sources according to the information in this guide.

Developing a Research Question

Examples of problematic research questions

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