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Sociological Research

A quick guide to sociological research methods for collecting and evaluating information on your topic.

What is a Scholarly Journal?

Many professors require students to cite scholarly journal articles in their research papers. Scholarly journals contain articles written by scholars for scholars. Articles are reviewed by other scholars before they are published. This is called peer review.  

Many databases allow you to restrict your searches to scholarly journals, sometimes called "refereed" or "peer reviewed" journals.

There are two different kinds of scholarly articles sociologists cite frequently in their work.  Research articles present the findings from a specific study.  They typically start with a review of the literature and a description of how the study contributes our knowledge of the subject.  They then describe their research methods (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed) and present their findings. Review articles summarize the research being done on a particular topic and/or the theoretical approaches commonly taken.  They will often reference many research articles recently published on a topic.  Review articles are a great place to start if you want to learn more about a subfield of sociology! 

Take a look at a sample issue of the American Journal of Sociology for some examples of research articles. 

Take a look at a sample issue of the Annual Review of Sociology for some examples of review articles. 

Finding an Article

Many databases and Google Scholar have links directly to an article.

If you do not find a direct link, check the library catalogs to see if the journal is carried either in electronic or print version. Make sure you know the volume, date, and pages you need.

Most sociology journals are now available online. Look up the journal title in eJournals@Emory.

If you are given a choice of many suppliers of a journal, check first for for the correct year; secondly, look to see if you can get a copy from the publisher or a major source like JSTOR or ProjectMuse.  These are always the most complete.

If a journal is not available online, check discoverE for a print edition. Watch to see if the volumes are on the shelf, in another library, or in storage. If the volume is in storage you can send an electronic request for retrieval and pick it up at the Library Service Desk, usually within 24 hours.

If the library does not have the journal or year you need, you can request the article via Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

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Finding Articles

Key Sociology Databases

The following is a list of some of the major databases and indexes relevant to sociology as taught at Emory. (Note: Most of these databases are restricted to Emory users.) Many of these databases have direct links to full-text either through hyperlinks or the "Find it at Emory" button. Always check the eJournals page and discoverE  before assuming that the library does not have an electronic version of the source.

The following two databases are the most important for sociology. While there is some overlap between the two, each has unique material:

Indexes and abstracts the international literature in sociology and related fields. Covers almost 2000 journals, plus relevant dissertation listings, abstracts of conference papers, and selected books. This is a smaller, more academic database with more foreign language material than SocINDEX. A print edition of this title is available at Ref. HM 1.S6.

Indexes and abstracts over 2500 journals, conference papers, and relevant books and dissertations in sociology and related fields. Includes some popular literature and additional full-text for many (but not all) citations. Provides deep historical coverage for major journals, e.g. American Journal of Sociology is indexed back to 1895.

Other important databases of interest to sociologists: 

Part of the Web of Knowledge, the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) is a multidisciplinary database. SSCI allows you to search not only by key words from an article's title but also by authors who have been cited in an article's bibliography. This is called citation searching. If you know a key article on your topic, this is often a very effective way to search. When you first connect to the Web of Knowledge, you can search the entire database or restrict your search to SSCI. Endnote compatible. A print version covering 1969-1993 is available at Ref. Z7161.S65.

Full text of articles reviewing current topics of interest in sociology. This is an excellent source for literature reviews!  Full text from 1975 to 2010 is available through JSTOR. Print copies are available at HM1.A763.   

Covers the professional and academic literature in psychology and related disciplines. Coverage is worldwide and includes references and abstracts to over 1300 journals in over 20 languages, and to English language books and book chapters.

  • ERIC from EBSCO (1966-present)

Indexes published and unpublished sources on all aspects of education and educational research. ERIC also indexes library and information science. Incorporates ERIC Digests, full-text reports on topics of current interest in education. Endnote compatible. ED numbers are available in microfiche 411.  

Tip: On discoverE, click on the articles tab and select "social sciences" from the drop down menu. This will allow you to search Sociological Abstracts, Social Science Abstracts, Social Science Citation Index, Econlit, and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts at the same time.

Related Databases

Since sociology is a wide-ranging field, you may find it helpful to look through the Research Guides page to find information on related disciplines--like education, psychology, women's studies, and global health. Connect to the libraries for the School of Law, Health Sciences, Goizueta Business School, and Pitts Theology for more information on specialized resources available in those fields.

The following databases are also useful for conducting sociological research. Databases@emory provides a full list of available databases.

Indexes scholarly journals in the social sciences, business, humanities, general science, multi-cultural studies, and education as well as major daily newspapers such as The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. In addition to locating the text of known journals, you can also search the database by subject and author.

Covers journals in health, social services, psychology, sociology, race relations and related social science areas.

6 volumes at Z7164.S68. Covers the older literature in the field.

Indexes over 600 journals in communications. Includes some with full text.

Covers full-text information on women from journals, newsletters, research reports from non-profit groups, government and international agencies. Covers women in over 190 countries. Information is available in the disciplines of sociology, psychology, law, health, education, and business.

Covers dissertations accepted at accredited U.S. institutions since 1861. Selectively covers masters theses, Canadian dissertations, British, and other international dissertations. PDFs of most titles are available depending on author's permission. Tip: See Electronic Theses & Dissertations for information on submission and access to Emory dissertations, masters theses and honors papers. The link goes to a multi-database index page. You can chose to search just Dissertations and Theses or conduct a broader search.

A full-text collection of U. S. newspapers, magazines, and journals of ethnic, minority, and native presses, searchable in English and Spanish. Now includes Ethnic NewsWatch: A History, 1960-1989 which can also be searched separately.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) provides access to legislative, executive, judicial, and regulatory documents produced by the Federal Government. More information on government information is found on the General Libraries' Government Documents web page.

A database of measurement instruments which includes questionnaires, checklists, index measures, rating scales, project techniques, tests, interview schedules, and a variety of other means of evaluation. Endnote compatible.

Includes citations and abstracts from journals and newsletters published in the U.S., Africa, and the Carribbean, as well as full-text coverage of core Black Studies periodicals.  

JCR is a resource for journal evaluation, using citation data drawn from scholarly and technical journals worldwide. Coverage is both multidisciplinary and international. A list of the most cited sociology journals is found in the Social Sciences Edition. Microfiche 1223 is the earlier years of JCR.

Provides searchable full-text access to backfiles of key scholarly journals in many fields including sociology and related disciplines. Includes the major scholarly journals in the field e.g., American Journal of SociologyAmerican Sociological Review and Social Forces. There are no current issues in JSTOR, however. In addition to locating the text of known journals, you can search the database by subject and author. 

Provides access to literature on the left, with a primary emphasis on politically and culturally engaged scholarship inside and outside the academy and a secondary emphasis on significant but little known sources of news and ideas. Topics covered include politics, economics, the labor movement, ecology and environment, women's studies, race and ethnicity, social and cultural theory, sociology, art and aesthetics, philosophy, history, education, law, and globalization.

Full-text access to news, business, medical, educational and legal sources. The sources include international, national, and regional newspapers; magazines; trade journals; newsletters; wire service reports; and transcripts of television and radio news programs. 

Provides indexing and abstracts for more than 400 magazines, journals, books, news sources and grey literature such as case studies and speeches. Also includes full text for the core GBLT journals.

Contains summaries of more than 170,000 criminal justice publications, including federal, state, and local government reports, books, journal articles and unpublished research.

Provides access to current issues and backfiles of a number of leading U.S. opinion publications (from the left and right sides of the political spectrum) including The Nation (1865-present), Commentary (1945-present), American Spectator (1967-present), The National Review (1955-present), New Republic (1914-present), Commonweal (1924-present), New York Review of Books (1965-present), Harper’s (1850-present) and NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) Report (1966-present). The metasearch option provided by Opinion Archives allows one to search concurrently across issues. All issues are also available via eJournals@Emory. 

Indexes books, periodicals and selected local, state, national, and international government documents in the areas of public policy, social policy and the social sciences. PAIS Archive can also be searched separately. Both files can be searched simultaneously. Endnote compatible.

Indexes over 2000 political science journals. 

  • Popline (1970-present; full text 2000-present)

Includes articles, reports and books about population studies, family planning, and reproductive health. 

Indexed books, journals, working papers, and other materials on population topics.

Largest health science database - a fantastic for sociology topics with a medical slant. Very current.

Formerly known as Periodical Abstracts. Covers publications from academic journals and popular magazines in the humanities, social sciences, general sciences, and business. A very broad resource.  

​​Provides access to full-text of Elsevier journals in science, technology and medicine, as well as selected social sciences and humanities titles. Includes the Journal of Aging Studies, Journal of Criminal Studies, and Race and Society.

Indexes and abstracts core periodicals in the fields of anthropology, economics, geography, law and criminology, political science, social work, sociology, and international relations. For retrospective searching (1890-1982) use Humanities and Social Sciences Retrospective by clicking on the Open Database Section area on the search page.Note: The default is to search the entire database; you do have the option of searching only the social science portion on the opening screen.

Contains over 475 full-text titles of interest to sociologists. Covers areas such as social behavior, human tendencies, interaction, relationships, culture and social structure. Includes some journals that are difficult to find in other electronic collections including Sex DifferencesLaw and Society Review, and Media Culture & Society.

An index of the feminist press and an excellent resource for finding information from a feminist perspective. Includes citations drawn from an number of databases including: Women Studies Abstracts(1984 - present); Women's Studies Database(1972 - present); New Books on Women & Feminism(UWisc, 1987 - present); POPLINE Subset on Women (1964 and earlier - present); Women of Color and Southern Women: A Bibliography of Social Science Research(1975 - 95); Updated quarterly. Source documents range from web sites, journal articles, book chapters and conference papers.

Subject Librarian

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Melissa Hackman

Top Sociology Journals

ISI publishes annual  Journal Citation Reports, which list journals by field and "impact factor".  Impact factor refers to the average number of times articles published in the past two years have been cited in the last year.  The sociology journals with the highest impact factors are: 

The American Sociological Review 

The Annual Review of Sociology 

The American Journal of Sociology 

Other highly cited journals include: 

Sociological Methodology

Social Forces

The Journal of Marriage and Family

Social Psychology Quarterly

Sociology of Education

Publishing a Scholarly Journal Article

Acceptance rates for articles submitted to the top journals in the field run under 10 percent.  The American Sociological Association posts Editor's Reports for their journals, which give prospective authors a good sense of how many articles each journal accepts, how many authors receive requests for revision, average review turnaround time, etc. 

Other resources of interest to sociologists looking to publish: 

Publishing and the Peer Review Process (from the University of Minnesota's Sociology Department)

Optimizing your Article for Search Engines (from Wiley-Blackwell) 

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