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Culture and Society: Sample Search

A guide to library resources (e.g. books, databases, encyclopedias) related to the sociology of culture.

An Example Search in SocINDEX

Tips for Topic Searching

First, think about your search and break it down.  Let's say you are looking for:

  • empirical studies of Latinos' eating habits in the U.S.
  • in scholarly journals.

Second, chose your database. In the sample search we use the database SocINDEX with Full Text.  We restrict 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: Latinos or related terms (e.g. Chicano, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican). (Note: the Boolean OR broadens your search.)
  • Box 2: empirical. (Note: scholarly journals 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 "food", "eating", or "dietary".)

Tip: Keep checking your relevant results for new terminology to add. The key to a strong search is to learn the terminology the literature uses to talk about a particular subject.  For example, here reviewing the results led us to add "acculturation” (i.e. adopting the cultural practices of your country of residence) to Box 3.  

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. Latin* retrieves latin, latino, latina, latinos, latinidad 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 (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.

Keeping Track of Your Searches

It can sometimes be daunting to keep track of all the literature you've searched for and read on a particular subject.  For that reason, it's useful to keep either a Search Journal or a Literature Review Matrix (see below).  Several services also allow you to save your searches, including EBSCOHost and Web of Science.  

Whatever strategy you choose, taking time to keep track of the articles you've found, how you found them, and the major findings or themes they present will make it much easier to write your final paper.  

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