Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore educational researchers’ online literature searching and sourcing strategies. Design/methodology/approach Adopting a multiple-case study approach, the authors conducted interviews and compared strategies employed by three groups of researchers: less-experienced doctoral students, experienced doctoral students, and junior faculty. Findings The results showed that the three groups differed in four searching strategies and two sourcing strategies. The former included: using and modifying keywords, doing advanced searches to narrow down or expand results, chaining, and networking to retrieve literature, while the latter consisted of: evaluating and selecting multiple-source articles, and self-monitoring the multiple-source searching process. The findings also revealed that the experienced doctoral students and junior faculty were able to adopt searching and sourcing strategies flexibly and simultaneously for the purpose of determining more relevant and useful sources. The findings suggest that these researchers, especially the less-experienced students, need specialized training to acquire sourcing strategies in order to critically evaluate relevant information or scholarly work to fulfill their research purposes. Originality/value Information seeking, an essential part of scholars’ work, has been widely examined across disciplines. However, few studies have explored scholars’ searching and sourcing behaviors for online academic literature. This study fulfilled the research gap.