SOC 212 Course Guide
This guide will provide you with an overview of how to search for books and journal articles for your research project.
What to Search: Catalog vs. Database
What is listed in the catalog is based upon OWNERSHIP. The catalog tells you what physical or electronic items a library has.
- Sheet Music
Content & Availability
The catalog provides a brief description of the item, including the subject(s) it covers and the location where it can be found, whether online or on the shelf.
The catalog for QC is called CUNY+ Catalog. One can search just the QC collection, the collection of another CUNY library such as Hunter College, or the collections of all the CUNY libraries.
What is listed in a database is based upon PUBLISHING. A database tells you what has been published, usually in a large subject area like Social Sciences, or a more specific discipline such as Sociology.
A database like Sociological Abstracts lists articles or other reading material from sociology journals and related publications, potentially “what exists” in the world of sociological study.
- Articles from journals
- Essays in books
- Conference Papers
Content & Availability
Almost every database provides an abstract (summary) of each item listed. Many of the items have a direct link to display the full-text (html or pdf) of the item to read. For those which do not have a direct link most have the linking tool which may locate the text in another database.
Not all the items listed in a database are owned by one particular library. So, some material in the databases is available to read here at QC, online or on the shelf, but not everything is.
Most databases are subject-based and cover many years of publishing. Some databases are NOT subject-based, they cover many subjects but are limited by publication format. For instance, some databases only index newspaper articles, or only magazine articles, or only book reviews.
How to Search: Keyword vs. Subject
Most everyone has performed a search on the web by using a search engine, e.g. Google. When doing so we usually use keywords based upon the topic or subject we are looking for.
Keywords can be defined as the following kind of words or language:
- They come immediately to mind, off the top of your head
- They are taken directly from an assignment or something you have read
Keywords do not have to be placed in any particular order, but they usually need linking words between them.
- AND is used to combine words together.
- OR is used for synonyms, when one word OR another word will do equally well.
- NOT is used to exclude a word.
Keyword searching is more general or broad and retrieves results that may not match what you are looking for.
Unlike keyword searching, subject searching is used to retrieve a more specific list of results which match your topic as exactly as possible.
The challenge in subject searching is determining which subject words to use, because subjects can be defined as the following kind of words or language:
- Discipline-based, e.g. from the study of Sociology, and taken from a:
Subject searching can work well if you use a word which describes a large one word topic, such as “abortion”.
If you have a topic with multiple parts to it, use a keyword search first, then determine what the subjects are by looking at the search results. In this way you can learn the subject language the database uses.
When searching a Catalog the order in which subject words are placed makes a difference. This is less the case in a Database because it usually has multiple boxes in which to type multiple subjects.
Results from a subject search ought to be very specific if you are using the correct subject words. If the result seems to be too small perhaps you have combined too many subjects together in your search, or it could be that there has not been much published on your particular topic.
- Get ideas for a topic by reading about current social issues in Opposing Viewpoints.
- Search the CUNY+ Catalog for books.
- Search Sociological Abstracts for scholarly journal articles.
- Save citations from Sociological Abstracts or other databases into Refworks.