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Sociology Library Guide

Research Tools for Sociology

Books Matter

Books and journal articles are the most common way to access scholarly research in your field, but each has advantages and disadvantages.  Books take longer to research, write, and publish, so the information is not as current as in journal articles, which are shorter and slightly faster to publish.  However, because they are longer and took more time to produce, books offer more thorough coverage of a topic, draw on a wider range of preexisting scholarship, and often excel in placing an argument in broader thematic and disciplinary context.

Consider a scholarly book in your own research, and look for the following:

  • Helpful introduction and overview of the topic;
  • Comprehensive literature review, outlining the major scholars and existing points of view on the topic;
  • Detailed study of the topic, usually broken down into manageable chapters;
  • Extensive bibliography to help you and other scholars find related works on the topic.

Subject Headings

The subject headings used in the library catalog to describe works of sociological interest will often include one of the following phrases. Consider adding them to your keyword searches to hone in on social aspects of a wide range of topics and cultures.

"Social life and customs" - attaches to a country or ethnic group to describe works about everyday life.

  • Hmong Americans--Social life and customs
  • Chile--Social life and customs

"Social aspects" - used as a subdivision for things.
"Social conditions" - used as a subdivision for places and groups of people.
"Sociological aspects" - used as a subdivision for institutions or abstract concepts.

  • Alcoholic beverages--Social aspects
  • United States--Emigration and immigration--Social aspects
  • Africa--Social conditions
  • Durban (South Africa)--Social conditions
  • Technology--Sociological aspects
  • Rural development--Sociological aspects

Remember you do not need to know the full subject heading in advance. Keyword searching for these phrases plus your topic keyword will work too when these phrases appear anywhere in the subject heading, title, or abstract/table of contents of an item.


Ready to expand your search beyond Howard-Tilton? Use the WorldCat database to search for books, journal titles, audio, video, and other materials in libraries across the country and around the world.  Use InterLibrary Loan (ILL) to borrow items from other libraries!

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