Why Use Them?
While the panoramic or "wide gaze" approach to research can be good ways to help generate an interest or area of exploration, research projects often require you to look close up at a body of research produced by scholars in a particular field.
This research is typically collected, codified, and made findable in a tool called a subject database.
Every academic discipline has at least one subject database that's considered the disciplinary gold standard -- a reliable, (relatively) comprehensive, and accurate record of the books that scholars are publishing and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals.
Databases are like lenses: they change what you see and how you see it -- and they can offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into a sharper disciplinary focus.
Three Databases We Recommend
Academic Search Premier
Why? It's a nice step down from HOLLIS -- when HOLLIS results seem too big or results are just too diffuse to handle. Academic Search Premier is multidisciplinary, so you'll get a little across a lot of knowledge domains, but it includes core academic journals, so you can begin to see the shape of an academic conversation (and perhaps, through journal titles, discover the disciplines that are most engaged with the topic you're researching). Academic Search Premier also will include ome magazine content.
- Academic Search Premier screens help reinforce the lessons of HOLLIS: concepts joined by "operators" (AND, OR, NOT).
- Items that aren't readily available in full-text will display a link.
- Academic Search Premier is one of many databases in the EBCOhost ecosystem. If you don't find what you need there, switch things up with the option
Why: It's a core resource for identifying books, book chapters, journal articles, reports, conference papers, book reviews, dissertations -- the major modes of scholarly communication -- in sociology and its subfields. Here you'll find research related to culture and social structure; demography; economic development; environmental interactions; family and social welfare; health and medicine and law; history and theory of sociology; rural and urban sociology; social development; social differentiation; social psychology and group interaction; business, education; studies in violence and power; studies of gender, race, and ethnicity. Very little of what you'll find in SocAbs is "general interest," "popular," or non-scholarly, a difference from Academic Search Premier, for example. .
- Like HOLLIS, it uses AND, OR, NOT, operators, recognizes quotation marks for phrase searching and understands the truncation symbol *.
- Different from HOLLIS, SocAbs allows for another operator, NEAR/n (or N/n) so you can specifiy even closer relationships between concepts than AND allows. Example: surrogacy NEAR/5 money will look for terms within five words of each other .. Surrogacy AND money is broader: the words just have to appear in the same record or document.
- Like HOLLIS SocAbs allows you to filter result sets and thus sharpen and focus results.
- SocAbs also sits inside other databases -- nested doll style. If you want ot search bigger information environments but still stay focused on the social sciences, you can jump into these databases from the basic search page of SA.
Familiar and current, it also searches full-text, which makes it different from the Sociological Abstracts and Academic Search Premier.
Full-text searching can be an advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a "nugget" that traditional database searching can't surface easily.
Google Scholar's algorithms are excellent, so have it at the ready. You may find some of the same things as in SocAbs or ASP but you may see them in a different order and sometimes that improves your "vision.
- Google Scholar is a great place to follow citation trails : the ways other scholars used/incorporated/interrogated an argument after it was published.
- Authors' names that are hotlinked can lead you to related research.
- To maximize seamlessness of searching and accessing full-text content, change your Google Scholar settings.