Online Research Guide

The importance of research in counseling remains at the forefront of counseling programs and professional practice. Knowledge of contemporary research strategies assists students and professional counselors in the development of clinical mental health and school counseling research topics. It promotes integrative counseling practices using evidence-based mental health interventions. The transition from printed to digital publications continues to alter the ways students gather information for academic research.

While libraries still serve as sources for scholarly inquiry, students can now conduct massive online searches from their homes. The benefits of online research extend beyond convenience to include greater accessibility and rapid retrieval of research material. While the accessibility of online scholarly documents saves time and expands results, it comes with some precautions. This guide provides an overview of how to safely conduct scholarly research online. With so much information available online, counseling students benefit from tools to help them identify unreliable sources and organize documents. The following information includes tips on refining searches, narrowing results, and organizing sources.

Using Google for Online Research

Conducting scholarly research may seem like a daunting task, especially when professors require numerous sources. However, students often find research projects highly rewarding. Efficient strategies for navigating search engines and narrowing results help students save time and find materials for their research. Using Google, the following tips and examples assist students in tackling some of their biggest semester projects.

Refining Your Search Results

Google provides numerous online services, including cloud computing software applications and a vast research database. This powerful online tool continues to alter the academic landscape for students and career researchers. Not only does Google provide access to volumes of information, it allows students to specify searches, filter results, and secure sources in record time. Two key features of Google facilitate enhanced online research: search shortcuts and advanced searches.

Search shortcuts allow students to refine searches by limiting results to specific domains, similar sites, and exact phrases. When searching for information within a domain, users must type “site:” immediately before the domain. No spaces occur between site: and the domain. For example, students searching for information on counseling certification from the American Counseling Association (ACA) type counseling certification followed by in the search bar to find results from the ACA’s website. The search shortcut feature also allows users to narrow results to a specific web address category, such as .edu or .org. Other search options include hashtags, social media specifications, and number ranges.

Google also offers advanced search, which allows users to narrow results based on specific information from a variety of categories without using shortcuts. Using the advanced search option, counseling students refine their search with exact phrases or exclusion words. These functions may prove particularly helpful when searching for studies on specific populations. Additionally, students may refine search results using the drop-down menus that include items such as publication date, file type, and language filter.

Google Scholar

In addition to search shortcuts and advanced searches using Google, students may elect to use Google Scholar to gather academic documents. Developed specifically for metadata searches of scholarly literature, Google Scholar provides users with access to full-text and linked, peer-reviewed material such as book chapters, academic journal articles, and conference papers. Not only does Google Scholar offer more than 160 million documents, it also features useful tools to help students manage and organize online researches. Google Scholar’s user library allows students to instantly save articles to their profile and categorize articles in custom folders.

Other helpful features of Google Scholar include advanced search options, article tracking for researchers, and profile preferences. Accessing Google Scholar preferences allows students to customize their account to include their college’s library resources. Students may add up to five library links to their account. Additional account options include specifying the number of results per page and bibliography management, a feature that allows students to access citation-import links. Google Scholar provides an array of Google Scholar search tips to help students effectively gather sources. Examples of suggestions provided by Google Scholar include methods for finding current and full-text articles and expanding searches that initially returned limited results.

Beyond Google

In addition to Google and Google Scholar, numerous academic and public search engines provide a wealth of knowledge useful for scholarly writing. These resources often feature full-text content available for free or at a discounted price to students. General search engines, such as the ones described below, allow students to access data from a variety of sources, including U.S. government records and multidisciplinary journal archives. Many field-specific databases connect students with resources relevant to counseling and educational research.


  • AMiner: Developed in 2005 to advance researcher social network data, AMiner offers mining services that allow students to search for academic works from numerous publications.
  • BASE: One of the largest search engines promoting intellectual material, BASE features over 120 million documents, including free, full-text access to more than 50% of its items.
  • CGP: A database of U.S. federal publications, CGP allows users to conduct advanced searches in categories such as electronic titles, government eBooks, and bibliographic records.
  • CIA World Factbook: Comprised of information from 267 international countries and factions, the CIA World Factbook includes topics in history, communications, and people.
  • ERIC: Promoting access to peer-reviewed scholarly research, this database allows students to conduct extensive searches for full-text sources. Refined search categories, including publication year and source, allow students to narrow search results.
  • iSeek Education: This search engine caters to students, teachers, and administrators. It offers age-appropriate, editor-reviewed content in areas such as curriculum planning and career development.
  • National Archives: Storing nearly 99% of the nation’s records, this organization features access to numerous archival databases, including information on personal histories, international relations, and government spending.
  • OCLC: This union catalog houses digital resources in formats such as journal articles, audio files, and data sets. OCLC provides free access to its records, which include more than 70,000 mental health search results.
  • CORE: This international search engine features more than 130 million open access articles. Emphasizing full-text content, CORE allows students to finetune their research projects while gaining global perspectives on mental health issues.

For Counseling Students

  • APA PsycNET: With more than 3 million peer-reviewed abstracts, this online database for the social sciences features full-text articles, book chapters, and reference books.
  • EBSCO: Hosting databases in areas such as education, sociology, and psychology, EBSCO’s massive collection of scholarly works provides one of the most exhaustive searches for students conducting counseling and educational research.
  • JSTOR: JSTOR, a comprehensive scholarly database for students, returns more than 80,000 school counseling results within seconds of searching.
  • PubMed: Made possible by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, PubMed connects students to a variety of resources in areas such as community mental health, adolescent psychology, and holistic medicine.
  • PubPsych: This search engine retrieves articles and abstracts from databases like PSYNDEX and PsychData. With an international focus, PubPsych informs counseling students of the latest trends in global mental health research and practice.
  • Sage Publishing: As a publisher of academic content, Sage Publishing allows students to explore its more than 1,000 published journals.

Evaluating Sources

Using reliable and relevant sources proves critical to the field of counseling. The importance of research in counseling extends beyond theoretical knowledge of human cognition, emotions, and behaviors. Not only do counselors and related professionals rely on research to conceptualize disorders, they also acquire knowledge of evidence-based clinical applications through contemporary research findings.

Reliable sources come from reputable publishers, such as academic journals and nonprofit organizations. They hold no grammatical errors and do not rely on flashy graphics to convey their message. Reliable sources offer accurate, objective descriptions of behaviors and events. Using information from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago Press, the following questions help facilitate the use of reliable sources.

Who is the Author?

Reliable sources include information about the author or authors of the document. Many articles from academic journals include snippets of an author’s credentials, employment, and research experience, all of which provide evidence of the author’s expertise on a particular topic. Questionable sources do not include an author or contact information.

What is its Purpose?

A source’s purpose targets an intended audience, such as academic researchers and students. Students examine the goal of the document to determine a source’s purpose. Some materials persuade or inform, while less reliable documents sell a product.

Does it Look Professional?

Reliable sources boast a professional appearance free of grammatical errors. Sources with profanity or excessive errors likely do not hail from a professional source. Scholarly articles follow an organized format and objectively present ideas, findings, and thoughtful discussions. Reliable sources also include relevant scholarly findings documented in a reference section.

Is it Objective?

Reliable sources present factual information, and authors clearly deferient their opinions. If a source appears biased, students can typically find a more objective source. Objective sources promote scientific inquiry without regard to funding or company image. Propagandistic material that draws on reader emotions; however, fails to meet the requisite, objective criteria.

Is it Current?

Many professors require students to use sources published within the last decade. While some historical or landmark sources may prove relevant, current sources incorporate contemporary research findings and relevant world events that improve the validity of a research project. Reliable sources clearly provide a publication date.

What Sites Does it Link to?

Examining a source’s links helps determine the reliability of the source’s content. Reliable online sources feature active links relevant to the topic. Writers may build links into the body of the document or provide them in the reference section. Students should explore links prior to assuming a source’s reliability.

Organizing Your Research

Organization serves as a key to success when conducting counseling and educational research. Online research allows students to digitally organize their sources in a variety of convenient and creative ways. Students may create electronic folders on their hard drive to store documents, or they may use an online research organization tool to keep track of and share sources. Students may find the following organizational tips helpful when engaging in online research.

  1. Select a Topic: Students begin their research project by selecting an interesting and specific question or discussion.
  2. Find Sources: Use Google, Google Scholar, or another online database to begin collecting sources. Bookmark relevant scholarly sources and filter through them by reading abstracts or summaries. Online research management tools help simplify this process.
  3. Create a Reference List: Creating a reference list allows students to quickly review gathered sources. Students may use an online research management tool to generate citations.
  4. Create an Outline: Creating an outline prior to writing a research paper allows students to identify where they can incorporate source information throughout the body of their work.
  5. Write and Save a Draft: Using the outline as a guide, students should begin writing their document. Saving an updated draft to an online storage platform, such as Google Cloud, ensures that a student's work does not go missing.

Online Tools to Manage Your Research

  • EasyBib: Developed for Apple products, this citation generator creates citations simply by scanning a book’s barcode. Librarians and teachers proofread citations created by EasyBib.
  • Endnote: Endnote allows students to create and manage a virtual library of sources. Endnote’s search options filter metadata to reduce the time spent searching for relevant sources.
  • Mendeley: In addition to organizing documents, this site allows students to follow researchers and search for jobs. Mendeley provides users with citation services in a variety of citation styles.
  • RefWorks: Streamlining the research process, this online tool allows users to store and import sources. Reference sharing features allow students to collaborate with peers online.
  • Zotero: This free online tool equips students with personal and group libraries that feature information on each document, including citations, personal notes, and related materials.

Citing Online Resources for Counseling Students

Scholarly academic writing relies on standardized citation and format styles to promote accuracy and credibility. Most social science disciplines, including counseling, use the American Psychological Association (APA) style. APA features an extensive manual that provides overviews of creating tables, citing books, and presenting statistics. The manual also includes information about formatting papers and in-text citations, creating reference lists, and language use. APA stipulates that authors should refrain from the use of gendered pronouns and biased language.

The majority of APA research papers fall into one of two categories: the literature review and the experimental report. Each type requires specific headings. APA encourages authors to keep their audience in mind as they organize each section. The following examples illustrate frequently used online sources, such as journal articles and electronic books. The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides more examples of style rules when citing a variety of sources.

Articles From Online Periodicals

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is an individualized tracking code assigned to online articles. This alphanumeric fingerprint promotes the longevity of links when URLs change, and most published documents feature DOIs. If an article has a DOI, writers should include it in the citation. When citing an article without a DOI, include the URL retrieval link.

With DOI


Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or



Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283. doi:10.1108/03090560710821161

Without DOI


Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number. Retrieved from



Kenneth, I. A. (2000). A Buddhist response to the nature of human rights. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 8. Retrieved from

Newspaper Articles


Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from



Parker-Pope, T. (2008, May 6). Psychiatry handbook linked to drug industry. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Electronic Books


De Huff, E. W. (n.d.). Taytay's tales: Traditional Pueblo Indian tales. Retrieved from



Davis, J. (n.d.). Familiar birdsongs of the Northwest. Available from inkey=1-9780931686108-0