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Sociology: Research & Databases

Identify the Research Question and Narrow Down the Topic

It is determined by the nature of Sociology that you may easily find numerous sociological topics to be researched. It could be a long list of topics given by your professor who asks you to have a further investigation, or you have to identify a research topic on your own. In either situation, chances are that you might have too broad a topic in your hand, which need to be narrowed down to a manageable size. You have to sharpen the broad research topic into a focused and pointed one that gives you a chance to write an in-depth research article or offer readers a fresh perspective. Here a few strategies that may help you to achieve this goal.

  • Ask the commonly-known questions of 5 W’s and H (Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How)
  • Study the aspects, subcategories, or components of the general topic
  • Identify the relationship or overlapping area of your topic with another significant one, for instance, its opposites, contrasts, or siblings.
  • If you really don't have no idea, remember ICE model might be helpful: Idea, Connection, and Extension.

Identify Keywords/Concepts

Once a research statement has been developed, now comes to the time that you have identify and select the important keywords that help you find the materials that you need in library’s catalog or databases. Keywords should be those words that underline the concepts in your research statement. They could be descriptive nouns, significant verbs, or even phrases. For instance, from research topic “Do children who frequently witness domestic violence tend to develop more aggressive behavior than those who don’t?” we can extract keywords: domestic violence, children, aggressive behavior, and potential keywords: witness/exposed, positive or negative influence, or domestic violence effect on children

Commonly-Used Database Searching Strategies

  • Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine keywords
    Use AND narrow your results. Example: police AND brutality
    Use OR to broaden your results. Example: clone or reproductive technique
    Use NOT to exclude the term from your results. Example: frog NOT toad

  • Phrase search
    Use parentheses or quotes to wrap the search terms. Example "genetically modified food"

  • Truncation symbol *
    Use * at the root of a search term. Example: child* is the searching for child, children, childish, childhood

Core Databases and Journals for Sociology

Subject Databases

Asst Prof/Head of Cataloging & Serials

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Junli Diao
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Multidisciplinary Databases

Newspapers and Magazines