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SOCY 3155/3755 - Research Methods - Dr. Stephanie Potochnick

Sociological Research Methods

How to Read a Scholarly Article

How to Read a Scholarly Article

Search Tips

1. Use AND to combine keywords and phrases when searching the electronic databases for journal articles.
  • china and film and history
  • veterans and pensions and legislation
  • united states and foreign policy

Unlike in Google and in other search engines, you will not get satisfactory results if you type an entire sentence, such as "the effect of advertising in mass media on teenage consumers." You need to pick out the key phrases, words, and concepts.

2. Use truncation (an asterisk) and wildcards (usually a question mark or exclamation point).

  • child* and education
  • globali?ation and analysis

Child* brings up child, children, childhood, and any other word that starts with the root "child." This works in most of the databases.

Globali?ation brings up items with the words globalization or globalisation.

If you don't use truncation and wildcards, some databases will look for an exact match to the words you type, and you may miss some relevant materials.

Warning: If you shorten the root word too much, you will bring up irrelevant items (soc* will bring up society and social and socioeconomic, but also Socrates).

3. Use your imagination.

Think of all the possible ways to express your topic. Brainstorm until you've exhausted all possibilities. An article about global warming may not have the phrase "global warming" anywhere in it. Instead, you may find that the title contains the words "surface temperature records" and a cataloger has assigned it the subject heading "climate change."

To get the best results, use the word OR inside parentheses.

  • (AIDS or HIV) and (television or movies or motion pictures)
  • (teen* or adolescen*) and (girl* or female) and aggression7. When searching for books, use broader terms than when searching for articles.

Example: instead of Title IX, try Sex discrimination in education

4. Don't limit yourself to just one database or one set of search results.

Search a database that covers many subjects (e.g., Academic Search Premier). The same search phrase entered in two different databases may bring up very different results. If your topic encompasses more than one major subject area-business and art, for example- try searching both a business database and an art database.

5. And of course, ask a librarian if you have questions!

Don't spin your wheels and waste a lot of time if you get stuck or encounter something confusing. A librarian at the Research Help Desk or your subject librarian can save you time and help you find better information, more efficiently.