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SOCI 302: Research Methods Lab: Scholarly Article Databases


Basic Database Search Techniques

Concept Explanation Example
Phrase search
(quotes required)
search for an exact phrase (most, but not all, databases use quotation marks) “death penalty”
“standardized test”
“reality TV”
Boolean logic (for keyword searching) use Boolean operators (AND, OR,
NOT) for more precise searching
See following examples
AND search for records that have all of the words (broadens the search)

race and poverty

drug use and educational attainment

OR search for records that have any of the words (narrows the search)

homosexual or gay or lesbian or queer

china or japan or korea

NOT exclude records that have the word (narrows the search) advertising not (TV or television)
Truncation search for a root word with any ending (most, but not all, databases use an asterisk *) adolescen* [finds adolescent, adolescents, adolescence]


Additional Database Techniques

Concept Definition Example
Complex Boolean Search place search words for the same
concept in the same search box
(or in parentheses)
(spous* or wife or wives or husband* or domestic partner*) and (abus* or batter* or violen*)
Proximity require words to appear within a certain distance of each other n (for “near”) = words can appear in any order w (for “within”) = words must appear in specified order poverty n4 mental health african w2 american* (n# and w# indicate the maximum number of intervening words) note: if no quotes or proximity connectors or are used, Ebsco defaults to w5
Field qualification (field limiting) require words to appear in a certain field in the database record (easy way: use dropdown menus)

au coleman (for author field)

ti racial profiling (for title field)

Limit (filter) restrict search results to a subset of the database e.g., by language, year of publication, type of publication
Add to folder select or save records from search results for future action save specified records to display, print, email, or add to bibliographic manager (e.g., RefWorks) later


Tips for Identifying Research Studies

  • Social science research articles generally include:
    • summary or abstract
    • statement of hypothesis, question, or assumption to be tested
    •  literature review
    • methodology section with description of subjects, procedures, and tools used
    • findings/results section, with analysis of results, significance, and/or explanation of conclusions
    • suggestions for further research and/or discussion of what the results don’t reveal
  • Limit search results to academic, scholarly, or peer reviewed journals; although limiting provides a preliminary filter, not all articles in a scholarly journal report on evidence-based or empirical research (e.g., letters to the editor, editorials, book reviews, commentaries, etc.), so you need to evaluate each article individually.
  • Look for research-related key words and phrases: study, measure, metric, subjects, cohort, data, survey, interview, focus group, control group, case study, field research, ethnography, pretest/post-test, textual analysis, content analysis, qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, etc.
  • Look for statistics, charts, and tables, as well concepts such as qualitative, quantitative, longitudinal, correlation, data, etc.

Finding Full Text

Many databases offered on the library's website include the full text of articles.  Click on the pdf or html icon to download the article.

If full text is not available, click the 360 Link icon to see if there is access from another source.  Look for:360 Link Find Full Text button icon displayed for each item in the databases offered from the library's website.  In Google Scholar, look for Find Full Text @ Oberlin.  Access at publisher's websites is generally limited to subscribers.

Full-text is not always accessible for immediate download.  The 360 Link may lead to an intermediary page that offers access through Interlibrary loan.  If you have trouble, consult library staff.

InterLibrary Loan

Can't find what you need?  For books, try OhioLINK. For books not available through OhioLINK and for other types of materials, use Interlibrary Loan (ILL).  ILL lets you borrow materials from non-OhioLINK libraries, including print books, scanned journal articles, musical scores, videos, theses/dissertations, and more. 

Contact with questions.