ENGL 127 Research Writing: Social Sciences (Schaefer)

This research guide is for students in Amanda Schaefer's English 127: Focus on Family & Home

Find Scholarship in Article Databases

Search for scholarly articles

The tool you will use to find scholarly articles is a library periodicals database (this is the same tool you used to find magazine and newspaper articles).

  • Limit to peer-reviewed or scholarly journal articles to find scholarly sources. By the way, be sure to still assess if it's a scholarly article. (For example, scholarly journals contain book reviews of scholarly texts. These are not scholarly articles.)

  • To find the most relevant articles, you will need to consider many more. Try multiple keywords and search different databases.
    • see below for more search tips
To find relevant scholarly articles: 
  • For scholarly articles limit your search to scholarly and/or peer reviewed journals. (In JSTOR just check the box next to Articles to omit reviews!) Much of the content in Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is scholarly. 
  • Use the Advanced Search feature to combine Keywords or use Subject Terms to find more relevant search results.
  • Set an appropriate date limit.
  • Click on an article title for the abstract to decide if you should read the whole thing.
  • I suggest leaving "full text" unchecked. It's helpful to learn about relevant sources, even if you have to track them down elsewhere!

Here's a screenshot from the ProQuest database that illustrates what I mean:

Using Subject Terms

Databases each have a set of controlled vocabulary they use to organize and search content; they are called Subject Terms. If you can't figure out what keyword will find you articles on your topic, you can search that collection's Subject Terms instead of keywords to find the most relevant articles on a topic. 

  • Select Subject Terms (in Academic Search Complete) or the Thesaurus (in ProQuest and browse for the Subject Term used by the database.
  • Type in your keyword, click Browse, and then read through the suggested Subject Terms.
  • Click on a term for an explanation of what it means.
  • Change OR to AND to combine relevant subject terms. I suggest building your search slowly. Start with one Subject Term and refine that search with additional keywords or subjects.
  • As shown in the image below, instead of the common expression "blended families," Academic Search Complete uses the Subject Term: STEPFAMILIES.

(click on image to enlarge)

search page showing how to search by subject terms

Additionally, the Subject Terms list can also help you identify key subtopics, as in the example below. 

  • Click on Subject Terms at the top banner to find the terms used to organize articles on a subject.
  • Type in your keyword and click Browse.
  • Below your term, you will see a list of subtopics for the subject term.

(click on image to enlarge)

subject limiting shown in screenshot as outlined in text

  • To use Subject Terms in a search, check the box next to a term and click Add if you are in the list of Subject Terms.
  • You can change OR to AND to add another subject term.

Create a Concept Map

A literature review requires you to identify the key issues, questions, and theoretical approaches the scholarly literature focuses on with regard to your topic.

The handout linked below may help you start to map out key facets of the scholarly conversation.
I use it in two ways as shown in the image below

  • First, to map out the issues I see from a results list. This helps me choose a scholarly focus.
  • Second, to map out the more focused conversation specifically on my topic.

(click on image to enlarge)

Screenshot of a concept map

Be a power researcher!

Full Text

ProQuest, Academic Search Complete, and other research databases include article abstracts and citation information without full text. This is useful to you as a researcher!

You may check the box for Full Text only results, but if you leave it unchecked, you will learn about highly relevant articles that you can track down elsewhere, whether in another GRC database or in WorldCat.

You can borrow articles we do not have in full text for free through Interlibrary Loan.

To track down the full text:

  • In your results list, click on Check for Full Text in other sources. That will either:

    • Link directly to the article in another Holman Library database


  • Provide a link to InterLibrary Loan. Click on the InterLibrary Loan link to borrow the article from another library. Articles are generally available electronically and they will be emailed to you quickly.

(Click on image to enlarge)


Citation "Mining"

Effective researchers "mine" or look through the references of a relevant book or article to find additional sources for their own research. This can be a productive technique!

To track down sources from a references list:  

  • Type the title of the source into search box of the library's One Search Tool.
  • Put the title in "quotes" to keep all the words together. If the title is very long, you might do best with just the first part.
  • If we have it, you'll find it easily this way. If we don't have it, you can use InterLibrary to borrow it for free.

(click on image to enlarge)

screenshot of a search, highlighting how you can choose to limit or not limit to full-text - and how you can look for an article in another database


Search Tip Basics

Boolean Operators AND OR NOT

AND / OR / NOT help you broaden or narrow your search results:

  • AND narrows and focuses your search - you get fewer, more relevant results

    • Ex: "medical care" AND teen* finds information on medical care specific to teens

  • OR broadens your search - you get more results

    • Ex: (teens OR youth) searches for both words

  • NOT omits results 

    • Ex: NOT "book reviews"

Truncation *

Use an asterisk with the root of a search term to find multiple forms of the word.

  • Teen* = teen, teenaged, teenagers

Build your Search

 Add one search term at a time, so you understand what works and what doesn't.

Keep searches simple using keywords to capture core ideas.

  • Ex: Search on ethics AND medical care AND immigrants, rather than: Do immigrant communities receive an adequate standard of health care?

Use a variety of search words to find different results

Look for and try relevant Subject Terms you find in the databases

Using the Interlibrary Loan Service

InterLibrary Loan: No library has it all! But the InterLibrary Loan (or ILL) is a service offered by Holman Library for borrowing books and articles from other libraries. InterLibrary Loan requests are free to current GRC students, faculty and staff.

For your research, it is important to search many places.
  • First, start with the books and articles available through the Holman Library.

  • Then, If you find books and articles that the Library does NOT have access to, just request them through Interlibrary Loan.

  • Using Interlibrary Loan increases the amount of resources available to you and helps you become a more thorough researcher.

  • Books and other items that require mailing may take 1-2 weeks.

  • Articles and other digital items may arrive within 2-5 days. Use your email as your contact info and the article will be sent directly to you.

If you need help filling out this form, call the library reference desk at (253) 931-6480.

Other places you can search...

Use the links below to look for books, articles and more beyond our collection:

Video Tutorial: How to Identify, Find, Use and Cite Scholarly Journal Articles

Video Tutorial on the Scholarly Conversation

A thorough video tutorial on finding and using scholarly literature.

  • Tip: Watch outside libguide for a larger view
Video Overview

This video tutorial created by a Holman Librarian talks about scholarship in all disciplines. It addresses:

  • Why scholarly literature exists - the unique purpose it serves
  • How a scholarly conversation advances our knowledge over time
  • How to find relevant scholarly literature
  • Strategies for reading scholarship
  • And a reminder on how to find help from a librarian

Be sure to read through the Scholarship section of this guide to learn much more about what scholarship is, the role it plays in research, policy, and knowledge, how to find and use it, and much more!

Scholarly Search Handout

Research Logs for the Literature Review

Use the handouts below to help you:

  • Identify the scholarly conversation on your topic
  • Identify a narrowed focus
  • Identify search terms
  • Track sources