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Sociology 15 (Lor): Research Strategies & Search Terms

Sociological Research Methods

Research Strategies

#1 Identify your question. Identify the key concepts and related terms. Tip:  You may want to re-phrase your question. Background reading can help you identify related terms and further define or narrow your topic. 

#2 Find an appropriate search tool. Consider your subject matter, discipline of study, type of information needed (e.g. peer reviewed articles)

#3 Start with a simple search based on your key concepts. Tip: You may also have to look at literature that refers to one (not all) aspects of your research question.

#4 Use specific search strategies.

  • Use AND to join dissimilar terms. Use OR to join synonyms or related terms.
  • Truncate words with * to pick up variations of that word.
  • Use "quotation marks" for phrase searching.
  • Use database filters e.g. limit to scholarly journals.
  • Consider searching in a specific field e.g. title (article title) or source (journal title)

#5 Search and skim results. Look for the language and terms that researchers use and that the database assigns to articles (Subjects).

#6 Switch up your searches.  Use promising new terminologyYour search may become more sophisticated.

#7 Explore bibliographies and citing literature to locate other articles, books, or authors who have written on the same topic. Find known items. Tip: See "Find a Known Item" tab on this guide.

Brainstorming Search Terms

How does the impact of participation in extracurricular activities impact undergraduate student success?

Independent Variable: extracurricular activity participation

Defined by: participation in sports/ student government/ clubs & orgs; participation in academic-type activities vs. participation in sports-like activities

Dependent Variable: student success

Defined by: GPA, grades, pass/fall rates, graduation rates, class ranking 

Brainstorming search terms? Ask, who, what, when, where, why & how?

Conducting a few test searches in library databases can help you locate the best search terms for your topic. When conducting a test search, look for additional terms in the article's:

  • title
  • abstract
  • article headings
  • author or database supplied keywords
  • subject headings (if available) 

Not sure what terminology is used by researchers to articulate the concepts related to your topic? Doing some background reading can help you become familiar with the terms used to discuss your topic. 

Books and encyclopedias are great resources for locating a more general overview of a a topic. 

Brainstorming Keywords Together

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