Terms You can Try

Some common vocabulary terms

  • debate or controversy (or controvers* to pick up variants), or contested or disputed or challenge* often help you surface works that identify the "stakes" of a particular argument, action, phenomenon, etc. So will words like proponents, advocates or their opposites: opponents or critics.
  • theory or theoretical or framework or model might help you find works in larger contexts or ideas that tested/examined via a "lens" of some kind. 
  • handbook or companion or encyclopedia  are common words to help identify good background or overview sources -- they exist for all disciplines, psychology among them. 
  • literature review is an important publication type in the sciences and social sciences because it is an effort to creaate a narrative about research that's been done: to summarize and synthesize recent scholarship, identify areas where there is consensus and areas where the research is more unsettled, and suggest what research gaps still exist and need additional study. (More specialized varieties of the "review" format exist; you may see them identified as systematic review or meta-analysis.)
  • history is often a way to get at studies over time -- and often the changing thinking in a field  (the value of a particular label, for example, effectiveness of an intervention, understanding of  phenomena,  events, populations, concepts, etc.).
  • narrative* or case study  or even the phrase "lived experiences" might angle topics more specifically toward studies of social relationships, observations of behavior, personal reflections, explanations or first hand "testimony" of some kind.
  • qualitative is one way social science researchers describe their non-numeric data collection methods -- and "qualitative" generally means interviews, focus groups, observed behavior of some kind. (Data-heavy studies, by contrast, are often described or tagged as quantitative.)
  • empirical is how experimental studies (lab, observation, field work) are often tagged and classified in databases like PsycInfo.
  • interview or survey also a great word to use to identify methods; ethnography (or ethnograph*) is a common word for the kind of observational studies that psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists routinely carry out.