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SOC 210 -- Research Methods (Fall 2019): Places to Start

Patience

Magic Cube, Cube, Puzzle, PlayMagic Cube, Hand, Puzzle, Toys

The Key to Good Research -- Patience is a Virtue!!!

Picking Your Topic IS Research

Basic Search Concepts

Keyword searching--Watch this tutorial from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. If your search term is a phrase, e.g., organized crime, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. "Organized crime" is a more specific search than typing the words separately.

Boolean operators (AND, OR, AND NOT) These words are used to combine your search terms. Click here to see a tutorial in the Gingrich Guide.

Truncation--Use the asterisk * to retrieve all variants of a word. For example, educat* will retrieve education, educating, educator. But be careful! Con* will retrieve convict, contract, constitution and all other words that start that way. You will get many irrelevant items.

Field--A field is the location in the record where your terms are located, e.g., title, subject, author.


The Research Process

  • Select an interesting and doable topic.
  • Spend some time doing background reading on your topic
    • .Background reading can show you the different facets of a topic and provide you with more vocabulary words to use in your searching.
    • Another strategy is to locate a book on your topic and examine the chapter titles in the table of contents and entries in the index at the back of the book to learn more about aspects of the topic that could narrow your research question.
  • Identify each component of your topic.
  • Select appropriate terms to describe the components and use truncation as appropriate.
  • Determine the correct use of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
  • Select fields to search if appropriate (author, title, subject).
  • Limit your results as necessary (date, scholarly vs. popular, etc.).
  • Evaluate your results and rethink your strategy as necessary.

Online Sources