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Sociological Research: Sample Searches

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

An Example Search in SocIndex

Tips for Topic Searching

First, think about your search and break it down.  You are looking for:

  • empirical studies on social media or career interests;
  • in scholarly journals.

Second, chose your database. In the sample search we use the database SocINDEX with Full Text for this search.  We restricted our search to scholarly journals to ensure that we are looking only at peer reviewed articles.  

Third, conduct your search. Try using 1) boolean operators (and, or, not) and 2) any useful truncation or wildcards (same root word with different endings or spellings).  

  • Box 1: social media or similar terms. (Note: the Boolean OR broadens your search.)
  • Box 2: empirical. (Note: scholarly journals do often use the word "empirical" to describe original research.)
  • Box 3: any special aspect of the topic you are studying. (e.g. In this case men or boys or male or gender.)

Tip: Keep checking your relevant results for new terminology to add. The key to a strong search is to learn the terminolog the literature uses to talk about a particular subject.  For example, here reviewing the results led us to add“online social network*” to Box 1.  

Tip: Unlike Google, most databases do not automatically retrieve plurals or variant spellings. You must use truncation/wildcards for more comprehensive searches. Many databases use * for truncation, eg. boy* retrieves boy, boys, boyhood, boycott, etc. and ? for a wildcard, eg. wom?n retrieves woman or women. 

For more information, check out: ProQuest Search Tips (SocAbstracts), EBSCO's Using Wildcards and Truncation (SocIndex), and the FirstSearch Tricks and Tips sheet below.  

Next Steps

Try running a similar search in other databases as assigned (e.g. Sociological Abstracts). You might also try running an advanced search.  

Like an article?  Use it to find more like it!  

  • Go to its literature review, bibliography and notes to see what resources author used.
  • Search for other articles by same author/s.
  • See who has cited this article (e.g. paste it into Google Scholar or Sociological Abstracts).
  • If you find many useful articles in the same journal, see if it is available electronically and search it for even more articles.
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