SOC 397 Social Research Methods: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I narrow my search?

Searching for research studies can actually be easier with a narrower topic. For example, if you are interested in health disparities, it will be helpful to narrow down the topic to a specific population (e.g. immigrants) and/or another variable (e.g. cancer screening or prenatal care).

Any tips on generating keywords?

Brainstorm any synonymous or related terms. Don’t be afraid to start searching at that point—by searching in a database and looking at study titles, abstracts, and subject headings, you can continue to develop and revise your search with new keywords.

What’s the difference between the databases?

Databases differ in term of scope and functionality for the most part. For example:

  • Sociological Abstracts and other disciplinary databases track the literature in that field. Disciplinary databases also have subject headings (official terms used to describe an idea) and other indexing that helps searching.
  • Web of Science is multidisciplinary database of top-tier journal articles. You can only search WoS with keywords

Do Web of Science results appear on Google Scholar as well?

You will often see some of the same citations appear in Google Scholar as in Web of Science; however here are a couple good things to know about Google Scholar:

  1. Google is searching the full text of an article, meaning you will end up with many more results, and quite a few will not be relevant. To search for keywords in the article title, go to Google Scholar's advanced search option. 
  2. Google ranks results by citation count, so older results are usually at the top (the research has been around longer for other people to cite). This organization can help you quickly identify key articles on a topic. When using Google Scholar, limit your results to the last 3-5 years so that you can quickly review the newest research. The Library’s databases, like Web of Science are set to display the newest research first.

Any more information on using the Find it @ PSU button?

Here’s a brief tutorial explaining how to get the full text of an article using Find it @ PSU.

How do I properly cite in a social science citation format?

Here’s a quick guide on citing references in the style of the American Sociological Association

How can I get help if I’m stuck?

You can ask for help anytime at the reference desk, online chat, or email.