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Sociology: Research "The Basics"

An introduction to databases and other resources for sociology research

Library General Information

This Scheele Memorial Library subject guide introduces students to some useful resources they will need to succeed in the research process. Specifically, this guide provides important information on : the Research Process, the library's Catalog, Boolean Search methods, the library's online Databases, and citation information.  

Research Process

Research is a process of investigation. An examination of a subject from different points of view. It’s not just a trip to the library to pick up a stack of materials, or choosing the first five hits from a Google search. Research is a hunt for quality information. It is getting to know a subject by reading up on it, reflecting, and playing with ideas.

The key to genuine research is a good research question that addresses a problem calling for analysis. Answering a research question requires that you use information, that is, data as a tool and not as a goal.

Data as a Goal is simply finding everything you can about a topic and explaining what you read.

Data  as a tool is finding out the basics about your topic, identifying a problem or issue related to that topic, and then trying to solve the problem or issue.

Watch this research model. It explains the concepts mentioned above. 

Typical Steps in the Research Process

  1. Select a topic and formulate a research question
  2. Get background information
  3. Refine your search topic
  4. Formulate a thesis statement
  5. Consider your resource options
  6. Select the appropriate resources
  7. Use the resource
  8. Locate your materials
  9. Analyze your materials
  10. Organize and write
  11. Compose your bibliography

Narrow Your Topic

Narrow Your Topic

  • Narrow Your Topic
  • Make it more focused 
  • Apply: Who, What, When, Where, How and Why Questions
  • Apply Discipline Specific Context:
  • Use your readings from class or in subject specific encyclopedias to get specific ideas

Review this video on how to NARROW A TOPIC

 

Additional Example:

Narrow your topic Facebook topics

Narrow your topic Food to Table topics

Our Library Catalog

The Scheele Library's OPAC or Catalog is the primary tool for identifying and locating resources owned by the library and relevant to your research. Typically, books, items placed on Reserve and , audio video materials are listed in this catalog.

It is easy to use the Online Catalog, and with its many advanced features, it is easy to find the materials you need.

The library's homepage has a single search box where you can enter your search terms and click “Search.” It is as simple as that! For more detailed searching you can use the Advanced Search page. 

 

Boolean Searching Using Keywords

Boolean searches allow you to combine words and phrases using the words AND, OR, NOT (known as Boolean operators) to limit, broaden, or define your search. A good researcher should know how to do a Boolean Search.

In addition to the above Boolean illustration, the videos below are also helpful.

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Preliminary research: Using Wikipedia, Databases, and Britannica Online for Academic Research

Research background material to gain a general working knowledge of your topic.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the main concepts of this topic?
  • What are the issues surrounding this topic?
  • What are some key terms that are being used to describe the topic?

Keep these questions in mind as you search for information on your topic. 

Engage in preliminary research and reading to gain the necessary knowledge of your subject in general and ideas on how to narrower and focus your topic. Read until you know enough about your subject to have informed opinions. How much reading you need to do will depend upon the complexity of the topic and your prior knowledge of the subject matter. You might want to begin with general sources: encyclopedias, dictionaries, text books, and subject reference works. 

Using Wikipedia to gain background information on your topic? Read about Wikipedia, its strength and weaknesses. Remember, Wikipedia is not considered to be a reliable source as not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased. 

 This video illustrates how Wikipedia can be incorporated into the research process.

 This video illustrates the preliminary research process.

These library resources are also valuable when conducting preliminary research

Britannica Online - Use this resource to search or browse for information in encyclopedias, magazines, videos, and Web sites.

Opposing Viewpoints - Locate information that’s needed to fully understand an issue: pro and con viewpoint articles, reference articles that provide context, full-text magazines, academic journals, and newspapers, primary source documents, government and organizational statistics, multimedia, including images and podcasts, links to hand-selected web sites.