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A curated guide for sociology students

Google Makes It Look Easy

Searching Tips

BOOLEAN OPERATORS for Finding Relevant Articles

AND – Use AND when you want documents that contain all terms to appear in your results.

e.g.  women AND military


OR – Use OR when you want documents that contain either one of the terms to appear in your results.

e.g. youth OR adolescent OR teenager 

NOT – Use NOT when you want to exclude documents that contain terms following NOT in your results.

e.g.  women AND California NOT “Los Angeles” 


“ ” Quotes – Enclose specific phrases in double quotation marks when you want documents that contain the exact phrases in your results.

e.g.    “civil rights” AND women
 “The Old Man and the Sea” - exact title


(  ) Parentheses – Enclose terms in parentheses you want to group together.

e.g.  (women OR female) AND (ethnicity OR race)  

* Asterisk as wildcard

e.g.  femini* returns all documents containing a word beginning with crim (feminine, feminism, feminism, feminist, etc.)
wom*n returns all documents containing woman or women

Other Tips

Search Terms

When searching, it helps to use "piece words" instead of typing in a full question. For example, if you're trying to study potential relationships between drug-use and economic class in the U.S., you wouldn't type "What is the relationship between drug-use and class in the U.S." You could try, and you might still find something, but you'll get more out of your search using keywords.

Potential keywords for the question above:

drugs, drug-use, addiction, class, united states, U.S., relation, cause, connection, alcohol, socio-economic...etc.

Notice some of these seem like synonyms? Using related terms helps expand your search. "Cause" is a specific type of relationship, whereas connection is another word for related. If you're having trouble finding things, the thesaurus is your friend!

Some General Search Tips:
  • Take advantage of subject, title, and author in "advanced search." This can help keep your searches relevant
  • Social science tends to advance rather quickly, especially compared to natural or physical science. Filter your search using a range of years. 
    • Unless you're researching the history of a particular topic or looking for primary sources from a specific era, it's usually best to stick to publications within the last 10-15 years. 

Follow the Breadcrumbs

If you find a relevant book in the catalog, look at the subject headings (under Subject(s)). Most books are assigned subject headings, and if you click on a heading, it will lead you to a list of books on that same topic.

If you already have a relevant book or article in hand, use its bibliography to find other sources on the same topic.