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Sociology Research Guide

A guide to sociology research resources and strategies

How Do I Search?

Person sitting reading with a book on their lap  with a highlighter on the book

Step One:

Take a look at the assignment. What information are you going to need?  Think about the elements that you have to discuss.

Step Two:

Conduct background research. First, to help you select the topic you want to discuss if you have not decided. Second, to help you focus your topic, which will make writing easier.  You want to know what information is out there, and how the topic has been already discussed.

In this background research, make note of any other terms that you see that related to your topic, this includes synonyms, technical terms, relevant theories, and historical names.  

Step Three:

Think about what you found in the first steps two steps and develop keywords for each aspect of your topic.  This will include keywords for each aspect of your research question or the aspects of the topic that you need to address. Think of broader and narrower terms, synonyms, historical terms, and possible cultural terminology.  Use the notes you made in the second step. 

Step Four:

Conduct some searches using keywords.  When searching, don't just look for results that work, but also make note of what you are seeing and what you are not seeing. This will help you modify your search. Try different combinations of your keywords. If you need help along the way make sure you contact your friendly librarian.  They are experts at locating information and love to help. 

Step Five:

Select your sources and make sure you know how to integrate them into your own ideas and cite them correctly.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Search Tips

  • Be flexible with your topic and your approach to research.  
  • Make note of any synonyms, similar terms, technical terms, or historical names used and try searching with those as well. Computers are literal, so a search for colonialism will not get you results that discuss imperialism if it does not use the word imperialism within that resource, this is why it is good to think of related terms and try those as well.
  • Try using broader terms if you are not finding enough results, or narrower terms if you are not seeing any results that focus on the aspect you want to discuss. There may not be information on a very specific idea, but might be on the more general theory that you can apply to that idea.
  • Use quotation marks around multi-word names or phrases to get you better results. This will tell the search engine to look for those words together and in that order, otherwise it will look for each word individually and you will get many unrelated results. Examples:  "social interaction", " rational choice theory", "Max Weber", "agrarian society

Search Tutorials

Keyword tutorial                   Google tutorial start page