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Feb 08 2021 - 10:00 AM
About Doctoral Research

This blog accompanies a brief orientation for Doctoral Students, scheduled in collaboration with Graduate Student Life and Development, for Monday, February 8th, 2021. We will provide Teachers College doctoral students with a broad overview of research support; explanation of Boolean logic; tips on smart searching; discussion of citation management tools; and summary of further points of reference. 

Presenters are: Allen Foresta and Jennifer Govan, Senior Librarians at the Gottesman Libraries.

Research Support

Ask a Librarian - the best way to get help with a library web application or ask anything about the library.

Research Consultation - one-on-one appointment with a librarian to review research tools and strategies

Sample doctoral research:

  • novice teachers and spatial theory
  • the impact of special education programs on English Language Learners in NYC Schools
  • small talk and taboo topics
  • compliance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) standards
  • art walks as an art based educational research method
  • early museum studies programs in the United States and in France
  • how museums have played a part in pre-service teacher education in the past (in the United States)
  • progressive education and the history of the mathematics education department at TC
  • workplace learning in private equity organizations
  • technology-assisted collaboration

Services Desk - staffed by Associates when we are open

Note: The worst question is the unasked one!


Image, with notes:

The Three Wisdoms, (1957), by Lim Juan. The Ziegfeld Collection of International Children's Art. Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries, Teachers College, Columbia University

Creator of work: Boy aged 18; School of creator: Penang Free School, 84 Kinta Lane, Penang, Malaya

Submittor of work: P.H.B. Harris, Ministry of Education, Federal House, Kuala Lumpur, Federation of Malaya

Student comment: Inspired by the popular game of blind man's bluff, the "Three Wisdoms" is an experiment in the continuity of line and the play of cubic shapes. It is half pattern half picture. The configuration of varied shapes and delicate lines boldly expressed are governed and related to the rectangular shape of the paper on which the picture is painted. The harmony and contrast of limited warm and cool color avoids gorgeousness. The textures are varied and colors balanced.

Teacher comment: A bold experimentor with a spirit of adventure. He is a good draughtsman, but has not made draughtmanship an end in itself.

Research Guides

Accessible from the Gottesman Libraries' "Top Resources", and from the Library Blog, research guides at the course, department, and program levels are descriptive bibliographies with links to relevant resources.


See our blogs for the following regularly scheduled workshops and stay tuned for upcoming sessions.

Archival Research

Cited Reference Searching

Grant Seeking

Children's Literature

Lit Review

What Kind of Researcher Are You?

Image: Workshop, Ziegfeld Collection of International Children's Art, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries, Teachers College, Columbia University


Image: Gottesman Libraries, SBLD Studio

Smart Searches


Some useful tools and sites:

  • A-Z List - alphabetical list of the e-journals and databases to which Teachers College subscribes
  • By Genre / By Department - select listing of resources available
  • By Provider: Ebsco, Proquest, Ovid (see PsycINFO, then go to "Change" database)
  • TC Super Search - federated search across all the resources available through Teachers College (and great way to quickly find full text -- you can enter all or part of an article title in quotes, e.g.)
  • CU QuickSearch - federated search across all the resources available through Columbia University Libraries..and great way to find access to a specific article or document)
  • Google Scholar - mega search / the universe of information and research (Tip: set your library links to holdings at Teachers College, Columbia University; Columbia University; and WorldCat, a consortium of shared catalogs)

Image: Convocation 2017. Courtesy of Teachers College, Columbia University.


Here are some general search strategies, with examples drawn from Educat, our catalog, as well as ERIC, the database of the Educational Resources InformationCenter.

Simple versus Advanced

  • Simple search is a free text/keyword search, Google-like. No need to think about database fields (subject headings, identifiers, or other de-limiters, like author, title, publisher, year) e.g. ESL



Keyword versus Controlled - keyword is free text; controlled vocabulary means using prescribed subject headings, often found through a database thesaurus , like the ERIC Thesaurus (or for books, the Library of Congress Subject Headings)

Boolean - AND, OR, NOT give the searcher more control over the search results

  • AND narrows down or intersect terms
  • OR broadens out, with like or similar words
  • NOT eliminates records with certain terms

"A" AND "B"

both words must be present in a record

e.g. stocks AND bonds

"A" OR "B"

at least one (or both) words must be present in a record

e.g stocks OR bonds

"A" AND "B", NOT "C"

the first but not the second word must be present in a record

e.g. stocks AND NOT bonds


Phrase Search - Search for complete phrases or specific phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks. Words enclosed in double quotes will appear together in all results exactly as typed. e.g. "spatial theory"

Truncation / Wildcard - lets you search for a term and all variant spellings of that term. To truncate a search term, do a keyword search, remove the ending of the word, and add an asterisk (*) to the end.


e.g. theat*

Proximity - The NEAR operator is used to retrieve records that contain the specified words or phrases within ten words of each other in the same indexed field. The WITHIN operator is similar to the NEAR operator, but allows you to specify the maximum number of words that may appear between the specified 

e.g. international NEAR conference, fractal WITHIN 3 geometry

Images: LCC Chart, Dewey Decimal Classification versus Library of CongressVenn Diagram, Wikimedia; Truncation, from 6 Techniques to Search Databases, Youtube

Learning from Experience


  • The nature, depth, and breadth of your topic will influence your choice of research tools and search strategy.
  • You will develop preferences for search tools and platforms, and get a sense as to what works best for you.
  • Keep an open mind and be willing to explore what's out there! 
  • Be a "bold experimentor with a spirit of adventure... a good draughtsman, but [do not make] draughtmanship an end in itself." *
  • Sometimes finding very little on your topic can be encouraging; you might hit upon a gold mine for new research!
  • Remember that you can't read everything and need to set limits... we have known students who have completed their dissertation in 2 years!
  • Remember that you are always the expert -- the best critical thinker / analyst of discoverable resources.
  • We are here to spark interest in research and guide you on your quest! 

Image: Bust of John Dewey in Zankel Hall, Teachers College. Courtesy of Viv Ellis, Ph'D.

Manage Citations


So, how do you organize what you find? Long gone are stacks of index cards and page son handwritten notes. You can e-mail or export references into tools that help you manage your research. You can also store full text, documents, and media within these tools.

See what's available for free download via Columbia University Libraries. Go to "Research Support" and "Manage Citations".

  • Zotero is available as a Firefox plugin as well as a standalone version, providing browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Zotero's integration with Firefox is considerably more efficient than with the other browsers, however, so bear this in mind when getting started. Zotero allows you to collect, organize, cite and share your research sources and enables the download, capture, and indexing of full text from PDFs and websites.

  • Mendeley is another free standalone application, which performs largely the same functions as Zotero but behaves a little bit differently. For example, while both Zotero and Mendeley allow you to extract metadata (such as title, authors, etc.) from PDFs, Mendeley automates this process while providing the option of organizing your files directly in your hard drive in a customizable manner. Mendeley also allows for highlighting and annotations directly on the article PDF.

  • Endnote is the oldest software of the three available. EndNote groups citations into "libraries" with the file extension *.enl and a corresponding *.data folder. There are several ways to add a reference to a library: manually, or by exporting, importing, copying from another EndNote library, or connecting from EndNote. The program presents the user with a window containing a dropdown menu from which to select the type of reference they require (e.g., book, congressional legislation, film, newspaper article, etc.), and fields ranging from the general (author, title, year) to those specific to the kind of reference (abstract, author, ISBN, running time, etc.)

Which one? Columbia generally recommends Zotero if you're just starting out. Your specific work environment may dictate your choice -- e.g. are you joining a lab where something else is already in use? Do you expect a lot of collaborative work in which it might be useful to share citation libraries on the same platform? -- but in general, Zotero should work for all your needs.

Image: Good Housekeeping, 1908, Wikipedia

Getting Help

Teachers College Information Technology provides support for Endnote.

Check out Columbia University Libraries workshops.

Image: Colorful Handprints, Public Domain

Proposal and Beyond


An effective research proposal is essential for getting approval for your work, whether it is qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, or a mix of approaches. Here are some useful resources to get started.

Axelrod, Bradley N and James Windell. Dissertation Solutions: A Concise Guide to Planning, Implementing, and Surviving the Dissertation Process. Latham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, c2012

LB2369 .A94 2012

Bloomberg, Linda Dale and Marie Volpe. Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation: A Road Map from Beginning to End. Los Angeles: Sage, 3rd ed.

Contents: Taking charge of yourself and your work -- A complete dissertation : the big picture -- Gearing up : there is method in the madness -- Choosing a qualitative research approach -- A first step: developing your proposal -- Content and process : a chapter-by-chapter road map -- Introduction to your study -- Developing and presenting your literature review -- Presenting methodology and research approach -- Analyzing data and reporting findings -- Analyzing and interpreting findings -- Drawing trustworthy conclusions and presenting actionable recommendations -- Nearing completion -- Some final technical considerations -- Defense preparation and beyond

H62 .B58555 2016

Krathwohl, David R. and Nick L. Smith. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2005

Oversize LB2369 .K725 2005

McArthur, Dana Lynn. Scholarly Capacities, Habits of Mind, and Dispositions: Case Studies of Education Doctoral Students in a Dissertation Proposal Seminar. Thesis (Ed.D.)--Teachers College, Columbia University. 2011.

LB2369 .M33 2011, or via Proquest

Rossman, Mark H. Graduate School and Beyond: Earning and Using Your Advanced Degree. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, c2010.

Contents: Can I really complete a graduate degree? -- Online courses and degrees -- Financing your graduate degree -- The degree program -- The graduate committee -- The comprehensive exam -- Proposal and the thesis/dissertation -- The defense -- Now what?

B2371.4 .R67 2010

Another tip is to look at dissertations done at Teachers College in your program/area of study and/or by advisor, using Proquest Theses and Dissertations Global. You can search by and by department. Be sure to include ""Columbia University Teachers College" as "school identifier".

Image: Reading Room, Gottesman Libraries. Courtesy of Teachers College, Columbia University.

Additional Resources

Teachers College Graduate Writing Center offers a variety of writing services to the Teachers College community. During private consultations, visitors have the opportunity to focus on any aspect of their writing with one of our qualified advisors. The types of assistance offered are on both the micro and macro levels, including brainstorming, organizing, drafting, as well as writing coaching and instruction. The Graduate Writing Center also offers workshops throughout the year on topics that meet the wide-reaching needs of the TC population, as well as writing solidarity events and retreats for dissertation writers. The mission of the Graduate Writing Center is to support visitors' development as writers, rather than serve as a proofreading or editing servic

Purdue Owl - The Purdue University Online Writing Lab houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Teachers and trainers may use this material for in-class and out-of-class instruction.

Included are guidelines and examples for citing in APA, the citation style preferred by TC departments.

For more APA manuals and guides, see here.

Deposit Research


Pocketknowledge is the social archive and institutional repository of Teachers College. In Pocketknowledge, you'll find papers of the faculty, records of the demonstration and experimental schools, historical dissertations, curricula, art works, and much, much more. You can upload your own authored works to share.

To access full text, you will need to create a free account using your cunix e-mail.

As a social archive you are welcome to deposit your authored works and decide who has access (the world, institutional members, or a select group of users).

Office of Doctoral Studies

Be sure to consult The Teachers College Office of Doctoral Studies for announcements, forms, information on deposits, FAQ, and more.

Image: Milbank Chapel, Courtesy of The Office of Doctoral Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University


Milbank Chapel was created in 1897, and has stencil decorating of green and gold designed by the Tiffany glass and decorating company. If you’ll take a look at the back you’ll see 5 stained glass windows representing science, literature, art, and the new & old testaments, created by Clayton & Bell of London. This chapel is one of NYC’s finest surviving late 19th century interiors. This room is used on occasion for classes and presentations.-- from Walking Tour of Teachers College.

Academic Commons


Academic Commons is Columbia University's digital repository where faculty, students, and staff of Columbia and its affiliate institutions can deposit the results of their scholarly work and research. Content in Academic Commons is freely available to the public.


Image: Columbia Academic Commons, Courtesy of Columbia University

Posted in: Learning at the LibraryWorkshops|By: Jennifer Govan|743 Reads