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SOCI 2005 and 2006 Sociological Imagination and Inquiry: Home

This is a course specific guide covering resources for Sociology and qualitative research methods.


Starting your literature review

  • Begin by identifying a problem that you are interested in investigating
  • Develop a research question about the problem
  • Identify the main concepts in your research question and brainstorm synonyms and alternative terms for each concept
  • Construct your search strategies using the identified terms and Boolean operators (AND, OR), quotes for phrase searching, and truncation
  • Search Sociological Abstracts, SocIndex with FullText, and other relevant disciplinary and multidisciplinary databases
  • Identify relevant subject headings for your topic from the results overview and from article records
  • Pick up additional (keyword) search terms from article abstracts and titles
  • Evaluate the results and refine your searches with subject headings, additional terms, and other limits (e.g., date, peer reviewed) as necessary
  • Identify potentially important articles for your research by reviewing the titles, abstracts, and the full article (pay attention to the introduction, methods, findings, and conclusion)
  • Save the citations and full-text articles for full review

Search Strategies and Tips

1.      Search Strategies

a.       Formulate a research question:

What has been written about retention of Hispanics in higher education?

b.      Identify databases, both subject specific and interdisciplinary, for example:


                i.      Brainstorm keywords and identify subject headings/descriptors, for example:

Keywords: retention -> graduates, graduation

  higher education -> college, university

  hispanics -> latino, latina

Relevant ERIC descriptors:  Retention; Academic persistence; Drop out prevention; Academic achievement; School holding power; Hispanic American students.

               ii.      Keep track of search strategies.

              iii.      Do multiple searches with different combinations of keywords and subject headings/descriptors, such as:

hispanic american students and (retention or graduat*)

              iv.      Search for literature reviews on topic. 

  In databases with a methodology limiter, such as PsycInfo or Medline, type in your search:

and then scroll down to limit by methodology:


For databases without methodology limiters or subject headings/descriptors for the concept, try combining your search terms with phrases such as:  literature review, systematic review, meta anlysis, review article, recent studie, and so forth.

               v.      Keeping current using alerts and RSS feeds.

c.       Identify key authors and works to establish the foundation for your argument's place in the ongoing academic/scholarly conversation.

d.      "Cited by" - this feature allows you to identify who has cited specific works in their own research. This can also help you find more current publications citing sources important to your own research.  In Google Scholar, for  example:

e.       Mine reference lists for additional materials that may be relevant to your topic.

f.       Depending upon your topic, you may want to identify popular/non-scholarly authors and texts that may be relevant to your argument.

g.      Be sure to check with your personal contacts, such as faculty and colleagues, for additional authors or publications that may be important to your work.

h.      Browsing the library shelves by call number can be another means of discovering relevant literature.

i.       Consult your reference librarians for research help throughout the process.


Finding qualitative research articles

If you are looking for research articles that employed a particular research method to collect data, try using that method as a keyword in your search. You can search with such terms as interview*, or "focus group*" or qualitative in combination with your topic keywords.

Example: homeless* AND "semi-structured interview*"


Subject Guide

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