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SOC 325: Project Community Advanced Practicum

(Winter 2022)

Some Notes on Search Strategies

  • Choosing a Database
    • The Library has many literature databases to choose from. The "Library Databases" page of this guide lists and links to recommended databases that cover the scholarly literature from sociology and other related fields that may be relevant depending on your placement and topic.
    • To be comprehensive, or if you are not finding what you need right away: I recommend searching in two different databases, since you will find slightly different results in each one.
      • Start with one of the sociology databases (either Sociological Abstracts or SocINDEX)
      • For the second database, choose one from another related subject area (if relevant) or move on to the other sociology database or a multidisciplinary database


  • Search Strategies
    • Play around with the drop-down field menu next to the search box. This defines where the database will search for your keyword search terms. There are many options: I recommend focusing on changing from full-text to not full-text searches (i.e., searching just the title, abstracts, and subject classifications of the articles).
      • If you have too many results: switch to not full text
      • If you have too few results: switch to full text
        • Each database provider will have a different default search (full text or not)
          • Sociological Abstracts defaults to searching the full text
          • SocINDEX defaults to not searching the full text
    • Try different keywords (search terms). Brainstorm all possible ways that someone might talk about your topic and try out different combinations of search terms. As you begin to read the literature, not different terms that authors use and add those in to your next set of searches.
      • A Keyword Table is a helpful tool to map out different ways to search for your topic, for example:

Keywords to find more research like this…

Murphy, A. K. and Wallace, D. (2010), Opportunities for Making Ends Meet and Upward Mobility: Differences in Organizational Deprivation Across Urban and Suburban Poor Neighborhoods. Social Science Quarterly, 91: 1164–1186.

Topic: Differences in organizational resource access in poor urban vs. suburban neighborhoods


Concept A:

Organizational Resource Access

Concept B:


Concept C:

Urban vs. Suburban Neighborhoods



Broader Terms


Narrower Terms


Related Terms

organizational resources




hardship organizations

food pantries



socioeconomic status






population density



  • Combine keywords using Boolean Logic
    • Use the different search box rows of the advanced search form to separate your search into its component concept, and combine each separate concept with AND
    • Search on variations of a single concept by connecting variant terms with OR
    • Put "exact phrases" in quotation marks
      • For example:
"organizational resources"


poverty OR poor


neighborhood OR environment
  • You can also do this search in a single search box by grouping like terms together with parentheses. For example:
"organizational resources" AND (poverty OR poor) AND (neighborhood OR environment)