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Sociology: Search strategies

Pay attention to language

Pay close attention to the words, concepts, and terminology authors use to discuss your topic. Keep a running list of words related to your topic. Use these terms in combination with the search tips below to be strategic about your searching. Look for subject terms or author supplied keywords to help you develop your list of keywords.

Strategic searching tips

Google Scholar is particularly useful for interdisciplinary research. It is most useful if you change Google Scholar library links settings to connect with the UI Libraries.

  • Click on the "ViewIt@UILink" in your results list for UILink services including full text (when available), links to our InfoHawk+Catalog, Interlibrary Loan requests, and more.
  • Google Scholar "cited by" links help you locate additional articles written on a topic and other authors in dialogue with a particular article/subject.
  • NOTE: Even with library links settings mapped to the UI Libraries, Google Scholar is only searching a small portion of the resources available through the UI Libraries.

InfoHawk+ is our UI Libraries' catalog plus. Search results contain items from our physical collections, electronic articles and books, and more.

  • Sign in with your hawkid and password (upper right hand corner) when using IH+. Once logged in you can make use of your e-shelf, save items from result lists, and more.
  • Make use of IH+ and database filters. They are a powerful way to refine your search. There are often peer review or scholarly journal filters if your assignments require those types of sources.
  • Use IH+ advanced search to combine multiple search terms using boolean and other search strategies.
  • NOTE: InfoHawk+ is only searching a small portion of the resources available through the UI Libraries.

Use databases strategically. The Find Articles page on this guide contains a list of databases and resources relevant to students completing disciplinary coursework. A description is provided for each resource. Some are more general. Some more specific. Each source will look slightly different but the search strategies demonstrated below work across resources.

Search terms/keywords

Use a variety of terms to describe your topic. Keep a running list of terms you find as you search. You will often discover vocabulary related to your topic that you might not have thought of on your own.

  • love OR romance
  • nature OR environment OR ecology
  • appetite OR hunger OR gastronomy

Use quotation marks for phrase searching.

  • "interpersonal relationship"
  • "aromantic parents"
  • "sexual health"

Use truncation to get the search tool (catalog, database, search engine) to search for a root word plus any possible endings.

  • flood* = flood, flood, flooded, flooding
  • econom* = economy, economic, economical
  • psycholog* = psychology, psychological, psychologist

Use AND, OR, and NOT to combine your search terms

  • (kinship OR sibling) AND (health OR happiness)
  • (sexual health OR sexuality) AND (aging OR older people)
  • "climate change" AND migrat* AND "global north"
  • "land grant" AND (university OR college)
  • dolphins NOT football

Some resources have unique tools that allow you to get creative and concise with your searching for information. Examples below.

  • Searching for articles using specific methodology: Some databases allow you to add limitations that tell the database to only search in the article abstract (formal article summary), keywords, or subject terms. Limiting your search to these fields for methodological terms (e.g., "interview," "case study," "survey," etc.) is one of the few ways to refine searches so that they include resources more likely to have been published based on findings from your chosen methodology. Not all databases have these options, but if they do, they are likely found in the search drop downs. Using the NOFT code in GenderWatch (and other ProQuest databases) limits the database to search only the title, author's name, abstract, keywords, and subject terms. The most essential information about an article is often contained in these fields, especially in the abstract, including (often) information about the methodology used to conduct the research. NOTE: This search strategy is not perfect (they never are) but is one way to explore specific types of results. Other databases have similar search options. 



Taking Stock and Reflecting

After you've found some resources for your assignment, it can be good to take a step back and consider what you've found. You might ask yourself: What perspectives are represented in these sources? What or whose perspectives might be missing? 

Searching for sources written by authors who represent a specific community, affinity group, or identity can be challenging. Below are a few places you might go to seek out additional resources to diversify the perspectives included in your research.