This research guide is for students in Sociology 432, studying race and ethnic relations. It is designed to help them identify, analyze, and choose appropriate scholarly information sources, including peer-reviewed journal articles. This guide concentrates on electronic resources, especially those commercial databases that index and abstract scholarly literature dealing with many different topics pertaining to race and ethnic relations. In many cases, links to the full-text of the article, chapter, paper, or even the entire book are also provided. Whatever the resource, the assumption is that it has gone through review processes designed to assure that it meets academic publishing standards.
There is also a growing amount of current, reputable, freely available information on the WWW. However, identifying and evaluating this information can be a daunting task. Therefore, this guide also includes suggestions for effectively searching on the WWW and evaluating the information you find there.
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. Consider using an assignment calculator to help you schedule the processes of your assignment from beginning to successfully completion.
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 probably need to use technique 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 "race AND social justice" both terms must appear in the search results. In the search "muslim or islam" 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.