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SSCI 310 (Roubal): Getting Started

Applied Social Research Method


This page is designed to help you with library resources that you will find useful as you do your research.

Suggested search terms

Search for a certain methodology by adding it to your search; examples: quanitative, qualitative, longitudinal

Search for certain social theories by putting the theory in quotes; examples: "Systems Theory" or "life review process"

Search for a specific author; examples: theorists, well-known experts, authors of other articles that you found useful

Refresh your memory

Refresh your memory of or develop an understanding of basic concepts with these reference resources:


Why Develop a Search Strategy?

Before starting a search, it is helpful to clarify what you are looking for by developing a search strategy. Developing a search strategy is a useful practice for several important reasons.

  • Helps focus your search
  • Gives you something to work with
  • Saves you time in the long run
  • Helps you find larger amount of relevant information

Buliding a Search Strategy

Think about the focus of your question. Summarize your topic in one or two sentences or questions; try to be as specific as possible.

Example: How does spirituality affect the mental health of the elderly?

Identify key concepts. Using your summarization, idenitfy the two or three main concepts.

Example: spirituality    mental health    elderly

Select terms to describe your concepts. Remember to include other words that describe these concepts including synonyms, plurals, and variant spellings.

Example: spirituality religion religious spiritual belief system; elderly elders geriatric; mental health coping

Combine the terms into a search statement. Connect the terms that are similar with the word OR. OR tells the database that any or all terms must be included. The results will include any, but not necessarily all of these terms. Use paraentheses to group like terms together and to clarify the relationship between terms.

Example: (spirituality or religion or religious or "belief system") (elderly or elders or geriatric) ("mental health" or coping)

Connect these OR concepts with the word AND between the parantheses.

Example: (spirituality or religion or religious or "belief system") and (elderly or elders or geriatric) and ("mental health" or coping)

Use advanced searching options or limiters to narrow your results. If your results list is large, narrow down the results by date, material type, etc.

Build on what you've found. The research process is not linear but cyclical. When you find articles that seem relevant, use the subject headings, or descriptors, and citations from those articles to expand your search. This process will help you re-evaluate your ideas and refocus your search if necessary.

What if you absolutely cannot think of other search terms to describe your topic? Remember you can always email or call me!

Subject Guide

Stacy Anderson's picture
Stacy Anderson