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SOC 360: Getting Started

A guide to library resources for students in Dr. Scott's Environmental Sociology class.

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This research guide  was created for students in Sociology 360, Environmental Sociology.  It is designed to introduce you to some basic resources for finding and evaluating information. Much of the emphasis is on library resources that will help you identify credible information sources, especially commercial databases that index and abstract scholarly and professional literature. However, an increasing amount of useful information is published directly on the WWW.  This guide is also designed to help you search the Web more efficiently and critically analyze and choose the information you find there.  Although this guide is by no means exhaustive, the resources listed here provide a good starting point for your research.

Search Terms and Search Strategy

What is a search strategy?  A search strategy is a plan for conducting research, ergo much of it is done BEFORE you actually jump into the process itself.  A search strategy can begin with very simple but often ignored steps like:   

*Understanding your assignment and asking for clarification early on if you need to do so.
*Being aware of your deadlines. The more in-depth and comprehensive your research needs to be, the more time    you will need for it.
*Identifying a topic you would like to research (or something of interest to you in a topic assigned to you).

Then you can proceed to the more complex planning such as:

*Gathering background information to identify what is generally known about your topic and place it in context. 
*Formulating an initial research question or questions that will guide you in finding more and specific information about your topic or some aspect of it.
*Deconstructing your research question by identifying the most important and unique keywords in your question to use as search terms.
*Conducting preliminary research in the UK Libraries catalog or a specialized database to determine, generally, what information exists with which you might work.
The amount of information you find in this initial foray can help you refine your research question.  If you are deluged with information you will need to use techniques to make your search more specific.  If you find too little information, you might need to broaden your search. 

Think about the search words, phrases and combination of terms you might have to use to perform your search and modify your search results. If a database offers a thesaurus, consider using it first to discover the specific language to use when searching that database. Using subjects or descriptors or searching keywords in the subject field can make your search results more precise. You might also have to think about:

Variant spellings:  Orthopedic, Orthopaedic
Variations of a root word:  Compute, Computers, Computerized
Singular and plural forms of words
Abbreviations and acronyms: AIDS or Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
Changes in language:  Colored, Negro, Black, Afro-or- African-American

A search strategy also involves thinking about how to combine search terms.  AND and OR are what are known as operators and they tell the search software how to query the database.  For instance in the search "Kentucky AND 'Sustainable Development'" both terms must appear in the search results.  In the search "Kentucky OR Appalachia" either term will produce a search result. 

Check out Database Searching for tips to help you do the most efficient and effective searching whether you are searching Google or any of the UK subscription databases.

Reference and Information Services

Roxanna Jones
William T. Young Library

(859) 218-1324

Responsibilities: General Reference, Information Literacy and Library Instruction, Reference Collection Management, Academic Liaison for Social Work
Subjects:Social Work