3 Expert Tips on How to Search a University Library Database

An education library technician weighs in on how to get the most out of your educational administration reference search

Are you endlessly confused by the rules of conducting a university library search? If you’re working on an educational administration research paper but you’re not quite sure how to find the right books and articles on your topic, you’re not alone!

Many researchers (myself included) feel like they are guessing when it comes to searching through a university library database. University libraries have hundreds of thousands of resources, so it can feel overwhelming when you set out to research a particular topic. The good news is that using Boolean search operators is not as complicated as it seems.

I sat down with expert education library technician Amber McIver to learn the best tips and tricks for using search operators - so you can find exactly the references you’re looking for.

Use Boolean Search Operators

The first tip for conducting a library search that gets you exactly the results you want is learning how to use the most common Boolean search operators AND, OR, and NOT.

A Boolean search, named after mathematician and philosopher George Boole, refers to a combination of keywords and operators that allows you to define the results you’re looking for in a computer database.

“Understanding Boolean search operators is the first step to having more control over your library search”, advises McIver. And using the operators? Not as complicated as you might think. Below is an outline of the most common search operators and what they do.

Common Search Operators

  • AND: Tells the search engine to narrow your search to include all the words and phrases you have entered, e.g. “educational administration” AND media.

  • OR: Tells the search engine to expand your search to include any of the words or phrases you have entered, e.g. “educational administration” OR “school administration”.

  • NOT: Tells the search engine to search all the words and phrases you have entered except the word or phrase entered after “NOT”, e.g. “school leadership” NOT elementary.

Note: All operators should be capitalized when you enter them into an advanced search.

Advanced Search.png

Other Operators

  • Parenthesis: Think of a math equation. Adding parentheses to your search tells the search engine to perform multiple searches at once, starting with the information in the brackets, e.g. (“educational administration” OR “school administration”) AND Twitter.

  • Truncation: Truncation, commonly represented by an asterisks (*), is a symbol that tells a database to search for multiple endings for the same root word. Truncation broadens your search to help you get the best results, e.g. (education* OR administ*) OR “educational administration” AND Twitter. Note: Not all databases support truncation.

  • Phrases: You can search for an exact phrase by placing it in quotation marks, e.g. “social media”. Note: This can significantly limit your search results, so ensure you are using the right subject codes (see below).

Identify Subject Categories

All university references are categorized by different subject categories. Subject classification helps to organize thousands of references by concept, which is determined by a library classification system such as Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal.

McIver recommends after conducting a preliminary library search to check out the subject categories listed under references that you’re most interested in. Make a list of these categories so that you can refine your search to find the exact materials you’re looking for.

As an example, I searched for “school leadership” AND “social media", and found the book pictured below. By scrolling down in the search to read the details, I was able to see the most commonly used subject categories for this book.

Library Search.png
Subject Codes.png

In the future when I am looking for references on school leaders and social media, I will know to use phrases like “educational technology” and “educational leadership” in my Boolean search.

Ask a Librarian

McIver’s most important piece of advice? Make an appointment with a librarian.

“While students can always ask the front desk librarians for assistance, making an appointment ensures that you get to speak with a subject-matter expert”, says McIver.

...students may not know that they have access to helpful subject guides or a collection of robots. They might not know about the history of education section in the basement.
Photo by me

Photo by me

Subject-matter experts are more likely to understand the specific subject terms that you want to use for your search and can provide you with resources you may not have known are available at your university. “At the Coutts Education Library, students may not know that they have access to helpful subject guides…or a collection of robots, “ laughs McIver. “They might not know about the history of education section in the basement”.

To book a consultation with a librarian, check your university library’s website to fill out a form or call the library.

Were these tips helpful to you? Let me know in the comments!


Amber McIver is a library technician at the Herbert T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta. To learn more about the Herbert T. Coutts Education Library, click here.

Featured Program: MEd in Educational Policy Studies at The University of Alberta

If You’re Thinking of Applying to an Educational Administration & Leadership Program, This Major Could be For You!

Program Overview

If you’re interested in pursuing a graduate program in educational leadership, the University of Alberta’s MEd in Educational Policy Studies (educational administration and leadership specialization), could be just what you’re looking for. This program is ideal for students and current working professionals who want to prepare for administrative and leadership roles within schools and government, in Canada and around the world.

All students in the educational administration and leadership major are accepted into the course-based route and complete four core courses and a series of options, along with a capping exercise. Students may also apply for the thesis-based route, and complete the same four core courses, four option courses, and a thesis. All students also complete an ethics module.

photo by me

photo by me


Students who choose to major in educational administration and leadership are required to take the following specialization core courses:

  • EDPS 511 Evolving Concepts in Educational Administration and Leadership

  • EDPS 512 Administrative and Leadership Process in Education

Both courses aim to teach foundational knowledge that helps situate students within this field of study, learn various theoretical approaches, and demonstrate their understanding through writing research papers, generally on an educational administration topic of the student’s choosing.

Students of all majors in this degree are also required to take the following department core courses:

  • EDPS 580 Contemporary Issues in Education: Perspective & Practice

  • EDPS 581 Introduction to Evaluating Educational Research

This program can be customized through a range of option courses. Students take almost any education course at the graduate level, which allow them to investigate specific interests on topics such as arts-based research, educational technology, and educational psychology, to name a few. Students can also enroll in a supervised independent study course and design the content and methods of evaluation in collaboration with their supervisor.

Is This Program For You?

This program is accommodating to part-time students, so it is ideal for students who may already be working within an educational or government field and who want to take on administrative or leadership positions within their organization. Part-time, this program can be completed in four years or two years full-time.

Specific vocational “how to be a leader” courses are not emphasized in this program, but the concept of leadership and developing skills needed to lead and think critically in today’s universities can be explored in any of the courses.

You can make this program what you want and choose to gain more research experience by completing a thesis or by participating in department workshops and research days.

To learn more about this program, click here.

Was this overview helpful? Let me know in the comments below!


10 Tips For New Educational Administration Graduate Students

Just Beginning Your Educational Administration Graduate Program? These Tips Are For You!

You’ve been accepted to an educational administration graduate program - congratulations!

Beginning graduate school can be both exciting and intimidating, but don’t worry - with these tips, you’ll learn useful organization strategies and how to get involved with your program and share your ideas. Because while graduate school is a lot of work, it should also be fun, right?

Here are 10 tips for students just starting out in their educational administration and leadership program. Feel free to add your favourite tips in the comments below ;)

Attend Student Orientation

Your department or university may offer a new student orientation sometime before the beginning of term. This is a great opportunity to meet other new (and current) students, instructors, your advisor (if you’ve been assigned one), and generally get a sense of what it feels like to be there.

Make sure to check your university email inbox to stay on top of event notifications, or check out your department’s website for updates about upcoming events.

Use a Reference Management Tool

Did you know you can build a digital library to keep all your articles organized? Register for a free account with a reference management tool such as Mendeley, Zotero, or Endnote to start today - even if you haven’t collected any references yet. By the time you begin working on your first major research project, you’ll already have a go-to database of references.

Related: Build an Educational Administration Library in a Weekend Using Mendeley

Keep a Reading Journal

One of the first assignments I had in grad school was to keep a reading journal, where I would write about the articles that I read, as well as my reflections on them. This is a helpful exercise because it will help you to:

  • Get acquainted with the literature and current issues in the field.

  • Help you better retain information you’ve read.

  • Help you to start voicing your opinions on educational administration topics.

Remember, this reading journal is just for you, so feel free to discuss anything else you want, including any fraudy feelings about being in grad school (because the imposter syndrome is real).

Related: Create an Educational Administration & Leadership Reading Journal in 3 Easy Steps

University Admin Research.JPG

Share Your Perspective

What better time than right now to speak up in class? Even if you’d rather not (for fear of public speaking or fear of sounding stupid), challenge yourself to share your observations about the readings (you DID do the readings, didn’t you?) and introduce yourself to someone new in every class.

Chances are, there are other students with similar interests as you who haven’t even thought about the topic the way you have. So, find your voice - practice if necessary.

Create a Plan for Your Program

More and more, universities are expecting students to take charge of their program and understand it well enough to make decisions about what courses they need to take in order to graduate. That being said, you need to know exactly what courses you need to register in, how many options you can take, and any other requirements for your program. You cannot just rely on an advisor to tell you what to do. It’s up to you to take initiative and be organized for the years you are in graduate school.

Understanding your program usually means looking up a program of study (another term for the overview of a program) generally available on your university’s website. Keep a list of the courses you need to take and check them off as you complete them. Pay attention to prerequisites, which you can find in the academic calendar.

Some programs also require additional work, such as an ethics module, capping project, or thesis - make sure you know every requirement for your program, as it will be unique to your university. And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it!

Write Down Important Deadlines

Review your university’s academic schedule and write down any important deadlines in your calendar, student planner, post-it notes on your fridge…whatever works! These dates are final and it’s up to you to know them. Important dates include:

  • The add/drop deadline for registering in courses or receiving a refund.

  • Deadline to apply to transfer to a thesis route (if applicable).

  • The graduation application deadline, and more.

You can find the academic schedule on your university’s website.

Go to the Library

Actually walk to the library, walk along the stacks, and familiarize yourself with the books on educational administration. Don’t just rely on an online library search. Plus, you’ll be surprised what great books you can find when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Studying and writing in the library is also your secret weapon to beat procrastination!

Related: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Writing an Educational Administration & Leadership Research Paper

Participate in Research Day

Many universities have department or university-wide research days for students. This is a great opportunity to create a research poster or to present a paper that you wrote for a class.

While it can be intimidating to put your research out there, you’ll be proud of yourself for sharing and discussing your ideas with your peers. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to talk about your research and to practice presenting to audience in a low-risk, fun environment. Think of it as preparation for your future as a researcher!

Start a Dialogue

Consider sharing your ideas both inside and outside the university while you’re in grad school. This is a great way to connect to other researchers and to learn to express your thoughts about your program and your research. This could take many different forms such as:

  • Starting a blog to discuss your research.

  • Registering for a Twitter account and using #edadmin, #edleadersip, or #AcademicTwitter to join the conversation on social media.

  • Pitch an article to an academic website or magazine (tip: try starting by writing an article for your university’s newspaper, newsletter, or magazine).

Join a Writing Group

If you’re working on a major research project, or just want to motivate yourself by writing with others in your program, consider joining a department writing group.

If your university does not have a writing group, or you are a part-time or online student who cannot attend the writing groups on campus, then you can also find an online writing group.

Share Your Ideas!

Did any of these tips work for you? Do you have more ideas to share with students beginning an educational administration grad program? Share them in the comments below!


Build an Educational Administration Library in a Weekend Using Mendeley

An Essential Resource Guide for Educational Administration Researchers

Why Create a Reference Library?

Is your research article database currently a stack of articles on your dining room table? Well, no longer! Reference management tools are helpful for building a digital library that will save you time and energy (and space in your house) the next time you tackle a research project.

In this guide, you’ll learn to:

  • Create a free account on Mendeley.

  • Install a free library desktop app, web importer, and citation plugin (step-by-step instructions included!).

  • Add details and notes.

Create a Free Account on Mendeley

If you have not been formally introduced to Mendeley, it is a free reference management tool and academic social network that makes it easy for researchers to create resource libraries, search for careers, and much more.

To sign up for a free Mendeley account, click here!


Note: I am in no way associated with Mendeley and do not receive any commission for promoting this platform. I just think it’s a great tool that I want to share with other researchers.

Whether you’re a new or experienced researcher, it’s a good idea to have a reference management tool to store and organize your articles. How helpful would it be to have a library of references the next time you write a paper or propose a new research project? By collecting articles, you will amass a curated library that will be a huge advantage to you in the future.

Download the Mendeley App

When you login to Mendeley, you are directed to your feed. Click the “Download Mendeley” image pictured below.


Next, you will be prompted to download Mendeley Desktop for your device.

In this case, I used Windows and was prompted to download the compatible app for my device. If you are using macOS or Linux, you will be prompted to install the app for that system. Otherwise, find your system listed in “Other Systems”. Your download should install after clicking the download button (pictured below).


During installation, be sure to accept the licensing agreement and ensure that the app downloads to your desktop. After installation, you will see a welcome window where you will be prompted to enter your login details. Please do that here.

You may also want to select “stay signed in” so that you don’t need to enter your credentials again in the future (if you’re using a system that you trust).


Once logged in, you will see a window that looks like this (see image below).

You can start importing documents to your library right away. If you’d like to install the Citation Plugin for Microsoft Word, click “Install now”.


Download the Citation Plugin

You can only download the Citation Plugin from the Mendeley desktop app, which is why it’s important to complete the above step before trying to install the Citation Plugin.

Note: If you currently have Microsoft Word running in the background, Mendeley will prompt you to close it to be able to install the Citation Plugin. Close Microsoft Word and click “Yes”.


This installation will be quick (so quick, you may not even see it happen). On the window in the app, the Citation Plugin for Microsoft Word will change from “Not Installed” to “Installed” (as pictured below).


Now, when you open Microsoft Word, you should be able to see the “Insert Citation” box along the top of your taskbar under the “References” tab (pictured below). By clicking this button, you’ll be able to quickly import citations when you’re writing papers. It can even be used to generate a reference page or bibliography


For more information on using the Citation Plugin, visit this page.

Download the Web Importer

From the Mendeley website, click the drop down menu (beside your profile image) and select “Download Mendeley”.

Web Importer.png

Next, under Web Importer, select the “Find out more” button as pictured below.

Find Out More.png

Next, you’ll be prompted to choose the correct installer based on the Internet browser you use most often. It might look something like this:

Internet Browser.png

Select the correct installer and click “Add”.


Note: You may be asked if you trust this application. Select “Yes” to proceed.

Importer App.png

The Mendeley importer will now be available in the top right corner of your screen. Now that you have the importer, the next time you open an article, simply click this icon and Mendeley will prompt you to import it to your library.

Download PDFs.png

Note: Ensure “Download PDFs if available” is checked and click “Save”.

This article will now appear in your recently added files.

Collecting References & Building Your Library

Adding references to your Mendeley library is as easy as clicking and dragging them into the library window in either the website or the desktop app. This is how you can get started curating a collection of references to use for your next research project.

The types of references you can store in your library can vary widely from journal articles, online articles, monographs, dissertations, and more. In most cases, you will find references through a university library search, though you can also import articles from the Internet or saved elsewhere on your computer.

Use Article Suggestions

You can also use Mendeley to find article suggestions. These suggestions are based on articles that you’ve curated in your Mendeley library, so the more you build it, the more Mendeley can recommend articles you might want to read.

To access article suggestions, click the “Feed” tab and select “Article suggestions”.


In the image above, you’ll see that Mendeley has recommended article suggestions based on a journal article I have saved in my library, “Administrators’ Professional Learning via Twitter: The Dissonance Between Beliefs and Actions”. Mendeley will generate personalized recommendations based on what you have saved in your own library.

Add Details & Notes

You may also want to add custom details and notes to your articles.

In your library, click on the article you’ve uploaded and you’ll see a window that includes further details about your reference. Although Mendeley does an excellent job of automatically importing details such as the name of the article, author, an abstract, and journal info, you can add more details that may not have been captured in the import, including tags.


Adding Tags

Adding tags is a great idea because it makes searching for articles in your library much easier later on. In the “Details” window, click “Edit” and add any tags that you think will be helpful. I like to include the keywords that the author used in the journal article (as shown above).

To search your Mendeley library by the tags you assign to your articles, use the search bar shown below after clicking the “Library” tab.

Library Search.png

Adding Notes

You can also add notes to your reference! This feature is helpful, especially for making notes about how this article could be used in your own research (pictured above).

If you’ve published your own articles, don’t forget to include them in your library and share them with others on Mendeley!

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Let me know in the comments below!


What "The Opposite of Loneliness" Taught Me About Life & University

The Essay that Inspired Me to Get Serious about Being an Educational Administration Researcher

What is “The Opposite of Loneliness”?

In grad school, one of my profs gave us this advice if we ever felt stuck with our research: have some go-to texts that bring us inspiration to help us “see above the weeds”.

The essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan, is that text for me.

First published in Yale Daily News on May 27, 2012, just days after Marina Keegan tragically passed away, this essay has since been published in the New York Times Bestseller collection of essays and stories of Keegan’s work.

Haven’t read this essay yet? Visit the Yale Daily News website to read it!

I’ve never read anything that quite captures the feeling of being in university like this essay does.

If you’re reading this, chances are you spend most of your time in a university, around others who are learning, researching, teaching, and administering. There’s something almost magical about being in this kind of environment and it’s almost impossible for us who feel at home here, to ever leave.

I could never explain why I was drawn to university, both as a student and as a university employee. I think it’s because for me, university has been a constant in my life. It’s a place where you’ll be challenged, both emotionally and intellectually, and a place to find your passion. I did not expect to find it and for it to be educational administration research. For me, the only way to describe it is the opposite of loneliness.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.
— Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness
photo by me

photo by me

Lessons Learned

When Marina wrote this essay, she was an accomplished student with a promising career as a writer. Sadly, she passed away in a car accident, and her essay and a subsequent book with the same title was published posthumously. In this essay she writes that “we’re so young . . . we have so much time”. But the truth is, we never know how much time we have.

Not to get too morbid, but this is it. Sometimes, we need to be brave and take chances, both in university and in life. There’s no better time to get started on that thing you’ve been putting off than right now.

My biggest lesson learned is not to put off the thing you’ve been wanting to do, one minute longer.

For me, that thing is trying to publish a research article. I don’t know where to start and so I’m procrastinating because of that uncertainty. But I know I can always ask for help or advice from others who have done it.

What is that thing you’ve been putting off? Maybe it’s applying to a graduate program or deciding to finally start writing that book you’ve been thinking about for years. Or maybe you want to explore a career change, to teaching, or to administration.

Whatever it is, don’t put it off another day. Take a step, however small. Right now. Make the decision you’re going to go for it and then figure everything else out along the way.

And if your goal is to do research in the field of educational administration & leadership, then I have some ideas to get you started!

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. . . . We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
— Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness

Start Today

Here are a few actionable steps you can take right now to pursue being an educational administration (or any kind) of researcher:

  • Sign out a book on educational administration or a topic you want to learn more about at your university or local library.

  • Research an educational administration graduate program.

  • Write a blog post on your experiences in research and university.

  • Write an outline for an article you want to submit to a journal.

  • Sign up for a free Twitter account and use #AcademicTwitter to connect to other academics with similar interests. Don’t be afraid to share your doubts, experiences, and ask questions!

For more information on Marina Keegan and the book “The Opposite of Loneliness”, please visit theoppositeofloneliness.com.

What have you been putting off? What step will you take to get you closer to your goals today? Let me know in the comments below!


The 3 Elements of an Online Educational Administration Book Review

How to Write an Engaging & Informative Online Book Review that Your Fellow Researchers Will Thank You For

Why are book reviews important?

There are a lot of books out there for anyone wanting to learn more about the field of educational administration & leadership. And I mean, a lot. A recent search on Amazon.com gave me more than 6,000 results. That’s a lot of potential books to scroll through, just to find one that you want to read!

So how do you figure out which books are 1) most relevant to your interests, 2) most current and up-to-date, and 3) worth reading? Unless you’re looking for a specific title, choosing a book can be a complete shot in the dark.

But as educational administration researchers, we can help each other out by writing helpful, detailed book reviews that let others know which books are worth investing time into.


Now I’m not suggesting that you need to write an essay on the book or anything. When I say detailed, all I mean is we should try to include key information to help others decide if this is the book for them. Learning how to write a useful online book review not only helps your peers to save time and money, but your personal recommendation could make all the difference between whether someone decides to check out the book or not.

Where Can I Post Online Book Reviews?

Thankfully many decent reviews can be found on the Internet and reading apps, though they can vary greatly and are more often than not very brief and unhelpful (e.g. “I didn’t like it, wouldn’t recommend it”).

Some websites that would benefit from consistently well-written book reviews are:

  • Reading apps such as Goodreads.

  • Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and other major book distributor websites.

  • Author and publisher websites.

  • Your local library’s website.

  • Your local bookstore’s website.

  • Your university library’s website.

  • Your own blog, website, or social media accounts.

And while not all of these websites may allow book reviews, it’s worth checking them out!

Note! What is missing on the list above is educational administration journals. While many journals do accept book reviews, those are academic book reviews and they follow a specific format that is more detailed than what you’d want to write for an app or website. However, if you’d like to learn more about writing academic book reviews, there are some great resources online.

The 3 Elements of an Online Book Review

A good book review has these common elements: 1) purpose, 2) synopsis, and 3) commentary and views. These are the three elements that I use in my own book reviews (e.g. Check out my review of Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration & Leadership on Goodreads).

Note: This is a lengthier book review, perhaps longer than something you want to write for a website like Amazon or Indigo, but the important thing is that all three elements are in your review - whether it’s 100 or 1,000 words long.

Goodreads Review.png


Include (in 3-5 sentences) what the main purpose of the book is and whether you think the book achieved this purpose. Keep this section brief, but include these details up-front in case someone only scans the review and reads the first few sentences.


The synopsis section is where you can provide a concise (and I mean very concise, maybe 5-10 sentences) summary of the content, which could include:

  • How the book is structured (the number of parts or chapters in the book).

  • The main themes or topics discussed in the book.

  • The purpose of the book (why does it exist and what is this book trying to help people understand).

  • Who would most benefit from reading this book (e.g. K-12 leaders, higher education administrators, etc.).

Commentary & Views

At least, we’ve come to the heart of any good book review! This is the place where you should go into more detail about what you thought of the book. Here are a few questions to think about:

  • How do you feel this book helped (or didn’t help) your understanding of a particular topic?

  • Do you think this book is unique, or is it similar to other books you’ve read on this topic?

  • What was the author’s point and did they do a good job of making their argument?

  • Did the author use a good variety of legitimate sources?

  • How might educational administrators/ researchers use the information in this book to take some kind of action?

The possibilities are endless here, so try writing a few sentences that capture how you felt about the book, its usefulness, and include if you would use this book as a resource or reference book for your own research - your fellow researchers will be happy to know what you think!

Are there other elements of a book review that you feel are important? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to share a link to a book review you’ve written that you want other educational administration researchers to know about!



3 Things I Learned about Educational Administration Research from a Book Vending Machine

a Book Vending Machine!?

I learned about a one-of-a-kind book vending machine located in a Canadian bookshop after reading an article published by a local news company.

The antiquarian bookshop The Monkey’s Paw, located in Toronto, Ontario, is home to the BIBLIO-MAT: an antique book vending machine that dispenses an old and interesting book randomly to patrons for only $2 (revision: due to popularity, the book vending machine now costs $3).

monkey’s paw, toronto book shop  photo by me

monkey’s paw, toronto book shop
photo by me

The BIBLIO-MAT, installed by Canadian designer/director Craig Small, is not only creative but a useful way for the bookshop to sell old and unusual books that may or may not meet the standards of the books on the shelves, but which are much too quirky and interesting to be thrown away. This is a unique way to sell books simply for the serendipitous feeling that whatever comes out of the BIBLIO-MAT is somehow meant for you.

Here is a quick video of the BIBLIO-MAT:

I became so fascinated with the idea of a book vending machine that I began to think about what a vending machine for educational administration books could teach us about research in this field.

Let’s call it the ADMIN-O-MATIC. Here are 3 things that it made me consider about educational administration research:

Makes the Invisible, Visible

An educational administration book vending machine, placed on a university campus, makes something that is usually invisible (administrative theory and unseen processes), into something visible. Something we can see and understand.

The ADMIN-O-MATIC could dispense books like Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates and Breaking into the All-Male Club: Female Professors of Educational Administration by Norma T. Mertz.

For a few dollars, patrons of the ADMIN-O-MATIC could get print copies of journals like the Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Administration Quarterly, or the Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy.

Of course, a few dollars would be much too cheap for some of these relatively expensive educational administration books, but it would be an interesting way to share educational administration & leadership theory in a unique way.

Disrupts Narratives

What is interesting about an educational administration book vending machine is the way it represents a physical disruption to the current narrative of educational administration, which is that it happens behind-the-scenes and is not well-understood by students, faculty, or even other administrators.

A (text)book vending machine like the ADMIN-O-MATIC has the potential to begin a new narrative about educational administration. We tend to distrust that which we can’t see, so what if we could interrupt harmful narratives about this field and re-think it in popular imagination? What is it we want people who may not understand administrative practices to know?

Sparks Conversation

Ultimately, the ADMIN-O-MATIC would spark important conversations between students, faculty, and even between administrators. What is the purpose of educational administrators in schools? How can administrators best support faculty and students? How do we translate administrative theory to practice?

And for educational administration researchers reading this, how can we make our research matter in the lives of people in schools? Why should others care about what we do?

BIBLIO-MAT by craig small photo by me

BIBLIO-MAT by craig small
photo by me

On a recent trip to Toronto, Ontario, I visited The Monkey's Paw, and purchased a token for $3 to use the BIBLIO-MAT (patrons of the shop are now limited to one token per customer as the machine is so popular).

The machine clinked and whirred and deposited a random book - Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne - in the tray below. Honestly, if I had seen this book on a shelf, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But there was something about it coming from the book vending machine that made me want to at least open it and know more about it.

Under most circumstances, most people probably wouldn’t care much for a book on educational administration research (not readers of this blog of course, who probably have an interest in this subject).

For those who invest their time and money into education, they should ask questions and get curious about what education administrators do and how they can support them. And as for us researchers and practitioners, we should do everything we can to make our research accessible, understandable, and relevant to the public.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


The 19 Best Educational Administration Grad Programs in Canada

Your Quick Reference Guide to Choosing the Perfect Educational Administration Graduate Program

Thinking of applying to an educational administration + leadership graduate program in Canada?

According to the 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings, there are 19 top Canadian universities to choose from when it comes to selecting an education program. That’s a lot of websites to search through just to figure out what educational administration programs these schools offer.

But don’t worry, I’ve already done the research for you!

In this quick reference guide, you’ll find at-a-glance information about what educational administration degrees each university offers, application fees, eligibility criteria, and a link to each program website.

Choosing the right grad program can be stressful - but it doesn’t have to be. I hope this guide makes the process a little simpler…and a lot more enjoyable ;)

University of Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario
Department: Leadership, Higher and Adult Education
Credentials offered: MA (Educational Leadership & Policy or Higher Education), MEd (Educational Leadership & Policy or Higher Education), EdD (International Educational Leadership & Policy or Higher Education), PhD (Educational Leadership & Policy or Higher Education), Certificate (Leadership in Higher Education)
Application fee: $220
Eligibility: High academic standing in relevant baccalaureate and/or master’s degree(s), and professional experience (required for PhD part-time program)
Website: https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/lhae/Programs/index.html

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University of British Columbia

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Department: Educational Studies
Credentials offered: MA (Educational Leadership & Administration), MEd (Educational Administration & Leadership), EdD (Educational Leadership & Policy), PhD (Educational Studies), Graduate Certificate (Higher Education or Educational Administration & Leadership)
Application fee: $104
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (B+ or 76% average) or master’s degree (high academic standing), and 5+ years of professional experience (EdD only). Evidence of professional experience must be provided for entry into the Graduate Certificate programs.
Website: http://edst.educ.ubc.ca/programs/educational-administration-leadership/

*Note: A combination of education and professional experience may also be considered.

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credit: UBC media relations

McGill University

Location: Montréal, Québec
Department: Integrated Studies in Education
Credentials offered: MA (Educational Leadership), PhD (Educational Studies), Graduate Certificate (Educational Leadership)
Application fee: $117.35
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (3.0 CPGA or 3.2 GPA) or master’s degree (3.2 CPGA), 2+ years of relevant leadership or teaching experience, and relevant practical or research experience (PhD only)
Website: https://mcgill.ca/dise/grad

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University of Alberta

Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Department: Educational Policy Studies
Credentials offered: MEd, EdD, PhD (Educational Administration & Leadership)
Application fee: $100
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (3.0+ GPA) or master’s degree (3.5+ GPA) and 2+ years of teaching or professional experience
Website: https://www.ualberta.ca/educational-policy-studies/programs/graduate-programs

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Concordia University

Location: Montréal, Québec
Department: Education
Credentials offered: MA (Educational Studies), PhD (Education)*
Application fee: $100
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (3.0+ GPA) or master’s degree (high academic standing) and 2+ years of professional activity in education or undergraduate record with at least 3 courses in education
Website: https://www.concordia.ca/artsci/education/programs/graduate.html

*Note: Concordia University does not have a specific degree in educational administration, policy, or leadership. Degrees such as the MA (Educational Studies) and PhD (Education) may cover administration + leadership issues and topics.

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University of Ottawa

Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Faculty: Education
Credentials offered: MA, MEd, PhD (Leadership, Evaluation, Curriculum and Policy Studies)
Application fee: $100
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (B+ or 70% average) or master’s degree (B+ or 75% average)
Website: https://education.uottawa.ca/en/programs/graduate-studies

photo: courtesy of  university of ottawa

photo: courtesy of university of ottawa

Simon Fraser University

Location: Burnaby, British Columbia
Faculty: Education
Credentials offered: MEd (Imaginative K-12 Leadership or Post-Secondary, Student Affairs & Services), EdD (Educational Leadership), Certificate (Educational Leadership)*
Application fee: $90
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (3.3+ GPA) or master’s degree (high academic standing), demonstrated interest in this field, and several years of educational leadership experience
Website: http://www.sfu.ca/education/gs/areas-of-study/educleadership/

*Note: Not all programs are offered each year.

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Credit: Simon fraser university

University of Calgary

Location: Calgary, Alberta
Faculty: Werklund School of Education
Credentials offered: MA (Leadership), MEd (Specialist Route), EdD, PhD (Leadership)
Application fee: $125
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (3.0+ GPA) or master’s degree (3.5 GPA), and relevant practical experience in area of specialization
Website: https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/gpe/leadership

photo: courtesy of  university of calgary

photo: courtesy of university of calgary

University of Victoria

Location: Victoria, British Columbia
Department: Educational Psychology & Leadership Studies
Credentials offered: MA (Leadership), MEd (Leadership), PhD (Leadership Studies)*
Application fee: $126.50
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (B+ average) or master’s degree (A- average), and 3+ years of field or leadership experience
Website: https://www.uvic.ca/education/areas-study/leadership/

Note: The PhD program in Leadership Studies is by special arrangement only and requires department approval before the application process can begin. Applicants are encouraged to contact specific faculty members to inquire.

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Université de Montréal

Location: Montréal, Québec
Department: Département d’administration et fondements de l’éducation
Credentials offered: MA, MÉd, PhD, DÉd (administration de l’éducation), diplômes d’études supérieures spécialisées (spécialisation diverse), microprogrammes (spécialisation diverse)
Application fee: 102,50 $ (cycles supérieures), 22,60 $ (un module ou à un microprogramme)
Eligibility: L’admission aux programmes de 2e cycle (microprogrammes, D.E.S.S et maîtrise) requiert un baccalauréat et pour une admission aux programmes de 3e cycle, une maîtrise, ou l’équivalent, est habituellement exigée
Website: https://fse.umontreal.ca/etudes-de-2e-et-3e-cycles/

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Queen’s University

Location: Kingston, Ontario
Faculty: Education
Credentials offered: MEd
(personalized research focus), PhD (Leadership & Policy Studies)
Application fee:
Baccalaureate degree (B- or 70%) or master’s degree (first class standing), and 2+ years of professional experience

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York University

Location: Toronto, Ontario
Faculty: Education
Credentials offered:
MLCE (Master of Leadership & Community Engagement), Graduate Diploma (Post-Secondary Education: Community, Culture & Policy)
Application fee:
Baccalaureate degree (B+ average)

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University of Manitoba

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Department: Educational Administration, Foundations & Psychology
Credentials offered: MEd
(Educational Administration), PhD
Application fee:
Baccalaureate degree (3.0 GPA) or master’s degree and 2+ years of teaching and/or professional experience

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This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution non-commercial 2.0 generic license.
credit: Daniel brock

Université du Québec

The Université du Québec is a system of ten public universities in Québec, Canada. Please visit the website for a list of all education programs.

Photo: courtesy of  université du québec

Photo: courtesy of université du québec

Université Laval

Location: Québec City, Québec
Faculty: Sciences de l’éducation
Credentials offered: MA
(administration et politiques de l’éducation), diplômes d’études supérieures spécialisées (gestion scolaire - gestion des établissements scolaires), microprogramme (administration et politiques de l’éducation - leadership pour une nouvelle école), PhD (administration et politiques de l’éducation)
Application fee:
84 $
Un baccalauréat ou une maîtrise (une moyenne de diplomation égale ou supérieure à
3, 1, sur 4,33, ou l’équivalent). Le candidat qui possède une combinaison d’études et d’éxpérience jugées équivalentes est également admissible

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Memorial University of Newfoundland

Location: St. John’s, Newfoundland
Faculty: Education
Credentials offered: MEd (Educational Leadership Studies), PhD (Education - Post-Secondary Studies specialization only), Diploma (Educational Leadership Studies)
Application fee: $60
Eligibility: Baccalaureate degree (70% average) or master’s degree (A average) and 2+ years of teaching or professional experience in an educational setting
Website: https://www.mun.ca/educ/programs/graduate/

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University of Saskatchewan

Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Department: Educational Administration
Credentials offered: MEd, PhD
Application fee:
Baccalaureate degree (70% average) or master’s degree (70% average)

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Université de Sherbrooke

Location: Sherbrooke, Québec
Credentials offered:
MÉd (gestion de l’éducation et de la formation), diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisées (gestion de l’éducation), microprogramme (administration scolaire), DEdu, PhD
Application fee:
87 $
Un baccalauréat ou une maîtrise ou l’équivalent et expérience pertinente

photo: courtesy of  université de sherbrooke  credit: Marco Guérin

photo: courtesy of université de sherbrooke
credit: Marco Guérin

University of Windsor

Location: Windsor, Ontario
Credentials offered: MEd
(Educational Administration), PhD (Policy and Leadership)*
Application fee:
Baccalaureate degree (70% average) or master’s degree (77% average), and 1+ year(s) of professional experience

Note: The PhD program is a joint program offered by Brock University, Lakehead University, and University of Windsor.

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Did you find this guide useful? Have you taken an educational administration graduate program?
Let me know in the comments section!


Create an Educational Administration & Leadership Reading Journal in 3 Easy Steps

Learn to curate references & customize an organizational system to help you retain what you’ve read

Want a system for keeping track of the educational administration books and articles you’ve read?

A recent article by Inc. suggests that simply reflecting on what you’ve read helps to retain the content in your memory and connect it to your existing knowledge on the subject. Imagine applying this system to your educational administration & leadership research - how helpful would it be to be able to recall important information from all the research you’ve read?

One of the greatest challenges of grad school can be retaining information from countless books and academic articles. If you’ve ever experienced forgetting most of what you’re read right after reading it, a research reading journal can change that!

A reading journal will help you to:

  • Remember key concepts from books and articles you’ve read.

  • Build on your existing knowledge on the subject of educational administration.

  • Connect more deeply to a field of study.

  • Create a go-to reference library for whenever you start a new research project.

The best part of starting a research journal is that you can start one today, and for next to nothing.

Materials needed:

  • A journal or notebook.

  • Writing instruments.

  • Curated articles, books, and online articles from your research collection (optional).

  • Coloured tabs or sticky notes to organize your research (optional).

Choose a Notebook

Everyone’s preference for choosing a notebook is different - and yours probably is, too!

While you don’t need to necessarily go out and buy an expensive notebook for this project (student budgets are tight, am I right?), consider investing either some money or some time into making the notebook something special that you can easily carry with you. I recommend an A5-sized notebook.

Pro tip: Science says that when we invest our money into something, we tend to take it more seriously. So, even if it’s $9 (like my notebook from Indigo, featured in the photo below), investing some money into your notebook almost guarantees that you will appreciate it more.


If you already have a notebook, great! If not, find one or buy one, and don’t stress about how beautiful it is. The best notebook is one that is full of your thoughts and ideas.

Curate a Collection of References

You’ve got a notebook and now you’re ready to start writing.

If you’re anything like me, you may already have a bookshelf crammed with books and stacks of journal articles. In fact, the real challenge may be choosing just one research article to start with. Hint: start with the one that sparks the most interest and inspires you!

But maybe you haven’t already curated a small library of reference materials. And that’s totally fine. If you’re a newbie, there are some helpful places you can look for inspiration:

  • The reference pages (also called bibliographies) of your favourite research articles.

  • Search your university library using keywords.

  • Recommendations on Mendeley, Goodreads, or Amazon.

  • Ask your instructor(s) or peers for recommendations (this is how I discovered many great books!).

Start collecting references that you’ve read or that you want to read. These could be journal articles, books, online articles, blog posts, social media posts, and recordings. It’s important to note that not all texts you choose to write about in this journal have to come from the field of educational administration & leadership. In some cases, they might be texts that are seemingly unrelated, but which actually have a connection in some way (e.g. articles from the fields of public administration or educational technology).

Organize Your Research Reading Journal

There is no one right way to organize your reading journal. Take some time to think about what information you want to capture. I recommend ensuring you can fit all the important information on 1-2 pages of your journal so that it’s easy to flip through.

You may want to include the following content:

  • Title of book/article and a numbering system (e.g. 001, 002, 003).

  • Author(s)

  • Publication info, such as name of journal, volume, issue, no., year, page numbers, and name of publishers (also include location information for books).

  • Keywords

  • Purpose

  • Methodology and overview of research design

  • A brief summary of the major findings of the study

  • Memorable quotes that you can draw on for future research


Of course, there may be times when you want to refer back to a research article you read or even re-read it for a new research project. A free management tool such as Mendeley allows you to create a library of research articles, which you can use for future reference.

Bonus Step: Set a Reading Goal

Now that you have a collection of articles and books to write about, how about setting a reading goal to keep you on track? By setting a reading goal, you’ll ensure that you make time in your busy schedule to read new research.

Share Your Work!

I hope that your reading journal is a success! Please post below to let me know how this project worked for you or tag me using #valentineacademia to show me your journal on social media. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!


The Embelgasse School of Administration

What a Citizen-Friendly School Can Teach Us About Administrative Teaching & Learning Spaces

We can learn a lot from the built environment.

Buildings designed for educational purposes convey meaning through structure and form, and none more so than the Embelgasse School of Administration.

Located in Vienna City, Austria, this school was built by AllesWirdGut architects to educate future public administrators. I chose to highlight the Embelgasse School of Administration in this blog post because I think as educational administration + leadership researchers, we can learn a lot about how our physical teaching and learning spaces (think: our schools, classrooms, and administrative buildings) match the purpose of those spaces.

I came across an article on this school on the architecture website ArchDaily while searching for an art exemplar from within the field of educational administration. With so few artistic representations in this field, architecture is one of the few aesthetic forms of expression that is cited in the literature around aesthetic administration.

To learn more about aesthetics in the field of educational administration + leadership, check out the further reading recommendations below!

I searched for hours on architecture websites trying to find a building built for the purposes of educating future educational administrators, and found the Embelgasse School of Administration, a school dedicated to educating future public administrators, a closely-related field and one that I thought we could learn a lot from as educational administration + leadership researchers.

Form, Meet Purpose

What first struck me about the Embelgasse School of Administration is how closely the form and design of the building aligned with its purpose. The building’s large windows invite onlookers to view the activities going on within the building, emphasizing the importance of transparency and openness. The building truly sets the “stage” for the performance of administrative praxis.

...the close connection between administration and the public finds positive architectural expression.
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

About the Embelgasse School of Administration

AllesWirdGut Architektur, the successful firm who won the commission with the City of Vienna to build a vocational school in which to train public administrators, was asked to build a school that would "make learning part of public life" (AllesWirdGut.cc). The open concept features of the Embelgasse School of Administration levels traditional power relationships between public administrators and the public.

The large, grid-like windows convey a sense of openness and transparency. The school is enclosed only by the natural perimeters of the block on which it is built; doing away with the physical (and metaphorical) walls that usually separate public administrators from the people they are supposed to serve. A shady inner courtyard and open access to terraces via the second and top floors of the school allows students to have constant contact with the outdoors, which also reinforces the connection between the students and the city.

Learning about public administration in an open and transparent environment prepares students to work under the constant gaze of the public eye. Each design decision made by the architect is intentional and the openness of the school invites a broader dialogue that renegotiates power dynamics between public servants and the public.

A Citizen-Friendly School of Administration
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

The Embelgasse School of Administration demonstrates the importance of context in the built environment. Though I could not find an example of a building dedicated to the training of educational administrators specifically, educational administration is a type of public administration that deals with many of the same criticisms, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of confidence by those of whom administrators are supposed to serve.

Architecture has the potential to teach us a lot about the field of educational administration and leadership and how we can more consciously construct spaces that convey messages of openness and transparency to the public.

The City of Vienna wanted to commission a building that would make learning a part of everyday life, and in my opinion, AllesWirdGut Architektur accomplished this difficult task by building a vocational school in which the building's form beautifully complements its function.

All photos © AllesWirdGut / Guilherme Silva Da Rosa and are displayed with the express written permission of AllesWirdGut Architektur.

What do you like about the Embelgasse School of Administration? Are there design elements that we can incorporate into our own administration teaching and learning spaces?


Further Reading
Samier, E. A., & Bates, R. J. (2006). Aesthetic dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership. London, New York: Routledge.

Sloane, J. A. (2013). Photographing vampires: The aesthetic absence in educational administration. Educational Administration and Foundations, 23(1), 73-85.

Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy

A Framework for Improving Educational Administrator Preparation Programs

How can we improve administrator preparation programs? It might seem like a daunting question (and one that’s hard to solve in a single blog post), but I think we can start by doing this one thing:

Incorporate projects into the curriculum that require students to use technology to make something new.

But how do we do that? Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy, a revision to Bloom’s Taxonomy for the digital age, suggests several ways in which technology can be incorporated into the curriculum to improve student learning. If applied to administrator preparation programs, educational administrators could graduate with an important skill set that will set them up for success in their careers and allow them to be more dynamic researchers.

A Brief Review of Bloom’s Taxonomy

You may have heard about Bloom’s Taxonomy. Originally developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a useful framework for instructors to set educational goals in their classrooms. Often illustrated as a pyramid (but in this case, portrayed as a lightbulb), the original Bloom’s framework scaffolds students’ skills. Beginning with knowledge, the idea is that a student progresses up the “levels” of the pyramid, to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and finally, evaluation (pictured in Figure 1).

Figure 1. FRActus learning. Bloom's taxonomy verbs. image provided via creative commons license.

Figure 1. FRActus learning. Bloom's taxonomy verbs. image provided via creative commons license.

Then, in the early 2000s, Bloom’s original taxonomy was revised to move away from static notions of educational objectives to action verbs, to better describe student cognitive processes. For example, remembering became remember, comprehension became understanding, and perhaps most importantly, evaluation became creating. And however useful these previous versions of Bloom’s Taxonomy continue to be, earlier versions did not fully consider the possibilities created by advancements in technology.

Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy, as the new revisions by Andrew Churches came to be known, incorporates technology in a way that is more aligned with the 21st century learner. And it’s this new digital revision that may have useful applications to improving courses in administrator preparation programs.

Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy

Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy includes certain verbs that describe more accurately, how today's students might learn. So for example, to remember (lowest-level cognition), students may highlight, duplicate, or visualize information. To create (highest-level cognition), students may choose to film, direct, or publish an original piece of research.

The diagram below is a useful resource from Fractus Learning that illustrates the ways in which students can remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using digital tools.

Figure 2. fractus learning. bloom's taxonomy for the digital world. iimage Provided via creative commons license.

Figure 2. fractus learning. bloom's taxonomy for the digital world. iimage Provided via creative commons license.

This revision of Bloom's Taxonomy suggests that it's never too late to revise old systems to make them work for today’s learners. I think that we should have the same view when examining whether the current structures of our administrator preparation programs properly equip today’s administrators to work and thrive in the modern university.

In my opinion, we put future educational administration researchers and leaders at a disadvantage by not emphasizing technology as a means through which to learn and to create original research. Scholars have noted the absence of emphasis on technology in the field of educational administration & leadership, and Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy may be one way that we can address this gap in curriculum.

Student Project Ideas

Ideas for student projects that incorporate technology could include:

  • Recording a podcast on administration and/or higher education issues.

  • Publishing a blog to reflect on administrator learning in graduate school.

  • Crafting an autoethnographic arts-based research project that explores the student's personal motivation for studying educational administration & leadership.

  • Designing a multimedia presentation on the effects of organizational alienation.

  • Writing an original essay, study, or literature review on a topic of the student's choosing.

Do you think Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy is a useful framework that has the potential of improving educational administrator preparation programs? What are some ways to encourage students to create original pieces of research using technology?


Bloom's Taxonomy for the Digital World. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/blooms-taxonomy-digital-print-table/

Bloom's Taxonomy Verbs. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/blooms-taxonomy-verbs-free-chart/

Padagogy Wheel V5: https://designingoutcomes.com/assets/PadWheelV5/PW_ENG_V5.0_Apple_iOS_PRINT.pdf

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Writing an Educational Administration & Leadership Research Paper

Plus Extra Steps You Can Take to Share Your Ideas with Your Peers!

Have you spent hours on the Internet looking for tips to improve your writing skills, only to find conflicting advice? Or advice that doesn’t really help you to write a persuasive educational administration research paper?

If I’m being honest, a lot of the tips I’ve found online were contradictory or confusing. Worse still, I never knew if I was completely missing the point with my own essays. Had I included enough references? Made valid arguments? If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been making it up as you went, you’re not alone!

The good news? There are concrete steps you can take to feel more confident with your research papers. These are some tips that have worked for me, and I think they will work for you, too!

In this guide, I will walk you through:

  • Getting started with your research paper.

  • Selecting an essay topic that makes you feel motivated.

  • Writing a strong research question.

  • Searching for (the right) references.

  • Proofreading, formatting, etc.

Along the way, I will also provide specific examples, links to some helpful resources, and a free printable research essentials checklist so that you can write your next paper with confidence.

Ready to get started? Keep on reading friend, ‘cause I’ve got your research paper-writing basics (and more) covered!

Click here to get your free printable research essentials checklist!

Getting Started

The good news is, you really don’t need much to get started on your research paper - access to a library, a computer, and your inquisitive mind are the essentials. However, you’ll probably need some of these items in your research toolkit at some stage in the writing process, so let’s just cover these now:

  • A notepad and a pen (highly recommended for creating your research paper plan!).

  • A computer or laptop (or access to a computer).

  • Research articles or books that you think you may use for your research project (it's okay if you don't have these yet!).

  • Sticky notes, highlighters, or different coloured pens for planning (optional).

  • A printer (optional).

  • Snacks and water (the world is better with snacks and you gotta stay hydrated!).

When it comes to beginning your research paper, half the battle is just starting. We often procrastinate writing because we don’t have a direction or are avoiding it because of how much work we think writing our papers will be. Of course, writing a paper does require some work, but most of the time, I’m always surprised how fast the process went once I actually started.

If you’ve only written terrible papers in the past, don’t worry, this is your chance to approach them differently. Never written one before? Believe you can write a great research paper and that you can learn how, if you’re willing to put in some effort. You got this!

Next, set up a workspace for yourself. This might be at home on your couch, in a coffee shop, or at university, but wherever you decide to set up, just try to find a place where you won’t be distracted. For me, that place is the quiet section of my school’s library (because let’s be real, the temptation to Netflix binge is way too strong at home). Plus, there’s something about seeing other students focused on their work that helps me feel more motivated to get to work.

Another consideration is that you also want to choose a workspace with an Internet connection. Wi-fi is a must to be able to access your library’s database, but don’t let social media distract you. Give yourself the opportunity to do well on your project, and you’ll be surprised at how well you do!

Selecting a Topic You Feel Excited & Inspired About

Sometimes, just getting invested in the topic you want to write about is enough to motivate you to work hard on your research paper. To find a topic that you feel excited and inspired about, pull out your notepad and write the following question at the top of the page:

What is one aspect of the field of educational administration & leadership that I’m curious about?

Try this: Write down 3-5 possible topics that are specific and which can realistically be approached in the 3,000 - 6,000 words you may have to complete your research paper. What topics interest you? What topics haven’t been explored enough in the research articles you may have already read?

Tip: A good way to find out whether you’ve been specific enough about your topic is to do a quick library search. For example, a search for “educational administration” gave me 137,908 search results in my university library database. However, a search for “Educational Administration” AND Positivism gave me 97 search results. It’s important to be as specific as possible. If you get 50,000 search results, you probably need to narrow your focus, but if you get between 50-250 search results, you’ve likely chosen a topic that has some key research that you can review that directly relates to your research interests.

Remember: There are many interesting topics to write about in the field of educational administration and research. And don’t worry; you have lots of time to write about them. For now, just choose one topic to practice honing your research paper-writing skills. You’ll be writing well-researched papers in no time.

In preparing to write this post, I went back through the stacks of research articles I’ve written over the years and pulled out a few examples to demonstrate the kinds of topics I wrote about:

  • A Uses and Gratifications Perspective on Administrators’ Use of Twitter to Improve Research and Practice within the Field of Educational Administration and Leadership

  • The All-Administrative University: Exploring the Disconnect between Academic Administrative Theory and Practice

  • The Adminibrary Project: An Interventionist Arts-Based Approach to Educational Administration and Leadership

What if you don’t get to choose your own topic?

If you don’t get to choose your own topic because your instructor assigned it to you, try one of these ideas:

  • Suggest your own topic! Some instructors offer a list of suggested topics, especially in introductory courses, but they are often open to your ideas as well. Write out a strong research question for the topic you’d like to write about (you may need to adjust it so that it aligns with the theme of the course), and submit it to your professor as early as possible so that they can review it and approve your idea well in advance of the deadline.

  • Use a variation on a topic. Using one of the pre-determined topics, go one step further and investigate one specific aspect of the topic. For example, if the assigned topic is to write about positivism in the field of educational administration and leadership, you could write about the history of positivism and how it currently affects the field today, or even different modern-day thinking on positivism. As always, make sure you check with your professor to approve your idea.

  • Add your own perspective on an assigned topic. There’s always room for you to add your own perspective on a topic, even if it’s been handed to you by your professor. What interesting research articles have you found in your quick library search that could magnify a certain issue that hasn’t been looked at in-depth enough yet?

You might feel like you need to have all your references ready in order to get started writing your research paper, but you can get started with just an idea (even a vague idea) of what you want to write about. Selecting your research topic might be the hardest step for you - it may even be the reason you may be procrastinating on your work. Not having a clear idea of what I’m actually writing about is the #1 reason I put off my own work!

Additional note:

Topics in the field of educational administration and leadership can vary. There is no “one topic” that is right or wrong to investigate. As a researcher, your job is to get curious about many different topics and to investigate them by seeking out sources that may or may not agree with you. What would you like to know more about? In some cases, your research topic may be given to you by your instructor, or you may be able to choose your own. Either way, there is room for creativity and to look at your topic from your own unique perspective.

Formulating a Clear & Concise Research Question

The next step is to think about your research question before you begin collecting resource materials. The reason for this is because searching for peer-reviewed articles and books is much easier to do when you have a specific idea of what research question you are trying to answer (though if you already have some resources in mind, keep them on hand). It may be tempting to dive in to the library and start collecting all kinds of research articles, BUT this process will be so much easier if you take a moment to craft a clear and concise research question.

Your research question is important because it helps to focus your research and give you a clear goal to work toward. For example, if your research question is whether Twitter has a positive effect on educational administrators’ professional learning, then that gives you a lot of ideas to use when it comes to selecting your research articles, and a specific question to try to answer in your essay.

Do this: On a piece of paper, write down your topic at the top of the page and then list potential research questions underneath. Consider what specifically you want to know about your chosen topic. If you choose to write a research paper on the topic of educational administration preparation programs, for example, then your question might be, “what are the uses of technology on administrator preparation programs?”. You may even choose to be more specific, for example, “what are the uses of technology in administrator preparation programs in Canadian universities?”.

Tip: Keep this piece of paper as your research plan for the rest of the writing process. It will be useful for sketching out an outline to your paper.

Your research question is your roadmap going forward, making it easier to know exactly what sources you might look for in your university library. The next step is to search for references.

Searching for References

Am I the only one that thinks collecting research articles is the most fun a person can have writing a research paper? There’s nothing better than finding a perfect article that argues your points exactly and backs up your research question. But knowing where to look for research articles seems to be one of the most challenging things about writing your research paper. The good news is, now that you have your research question, collecting research articles is going to be so much easier. There are basically three steps you’re going to take to find research articles:

  1. Login to your university library’s website and search keywords from your research question (e.g. “Educational Administration” AND “technology”).

  2. Filter your results so that you only view peer-reviewed references.

  3. Further filter your results to find the most recent research on your topic (I like to search primarily for articles published within the past ten years).

Idea: You might want to consider storing your research articles on a reference database such as Mendeley. Over time, you can build up a helpful resource library that will make future research projects a breeze!

Writing Your Research Paper

The first step of writing a research paper is getting set up in a location where you won’t be too distracted. Plan to write for intervals of time, such as 1 or 1.5-hour periods of time. Apps like Forest can be helpful for setting an intention for the amount of time you want to work for, and it will keep you from browsing Facebook and Instagram and losing valuable time.

Some important things to keep in mind as you write your research paper:

  • Research papers may seem overwhelming or daunting but they are totally manageable and can even be fun to write (ignore the haters - there’s nothing better than finding that one research article that totally backs up your claims and proves your point!).

  • Writing a research paper is not a linear process. Be open to new ideas and don’t be afraid to change your direction or your research question. Your research can take you in unexpected directions - it doesn’t mean you’re starting all over again, it means you’re learning, and that’s a good thing!

  • Don’t plagiarize. Plagiarism includes not only copying other people’s work and claiming it as your own, but using work you’ve previously submitted for a class and re-using it for a new project.

  • Don’t procrastinate. Decide to write this paper and put yourself in an environment where you’re more likely to do some work. You may be able to work fine on your couch, but if you’re like most of us (and would rather Netflix-binge than do homework), you need to pick yourself up and go to the library instead.

Proofreading Your Paper

It’s important to proofread your paper after you have finished your first draft. If possible, try to at least sleep on it and look at it again the next day. But if you’re rushing to finish this paper last minute, take a short break and step away from what you’ve written.

The trick to proofreading your paper is to read it out loud to yourself. If you’re in the library, try to read it quietly to yourself or try mouthing the words. There is something about reading your paper out loud that allows you to catch all kinds of awkward sentence phrases and grammar mistakes, like verb agreement. Also, set aside some time to create your reference list (it’s easiest to create it as you go, but if you save it for the end, make sure you give yourself some time to check your APA citations. The most common mistake students make is in their APA formatting and reference list, but these are really the easiest marks you can get. It just requires some attention to detail.

Consult the following APA guide on how to format your paper and citations. Alternatively, your university will likely have their own guide that they publish on their library’s website.

Next Steps

You’ve turned in your paper and now you’re done with it forever, right? Well, consider this: you’ve spent all this time and energy writing your research paper, so why not do something else with it? You' probably had some great ideas in your paper, and those are worth sharing with others in this field. So why not try out one or a few of the ideas below, and do something more with your paper?

  • Create a research poster out of your paper and present it at your school’s next research day.

  • Develop a research article using the feedback you receive on your research paper and submit it to a student conference such as the Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education.

  • Tweet your ideas using the hashtag #edadmin or share on other social media accounts.

  • Pitch a blog post or online article on your topic and submit it to a student newspaper or magazine.

Download your free research essentials checklist!

Do you have your own tips for writing an education research paper? Let me know in the comments below!