Sociology Questions

August 11th, 2014

Throughout the summer, we’ve been exploring how to do academic-level research in each of the major disciplines IU East offers degrees in. While there are plenty of commonalities and general techniques that we covered in the first week, each discipline has its own dedicated material. This week, we’ll look at the study of sociology.

While social theory is most concerned with how things like class, religion, law, and social behavior relate and interact in the present, it is possible that you will be interested in historical social theory, or how social change occurred in the past. If so, a historical database like JSTOR will be ideal.

For most research questions, though, you will want a general sociology database. The largest and best include SocIndex and ProQuest Social Sciences, which would be good first choices. And for ebooks, try the Social Theory collection or Brill’s Social Sciences ebook collection. For articles with an international scope, try Periodical Index Online(although this database only offers citations, so you will need to use it far enough in advance of your due date to make use of interlibrary loan). All of IU East’s other sociology-related databases can be found here.

social theory ebooks

So, if we wanted to find qualitative research on at-risk populations using class conflict theory, but not use anything dealing with criminal populations, we might try a search like this:

(conflict theor* OR class conflict) AND (qualitat*) AND (crisis OR risk) NOT (criminal* OR prison* OR jail* OR correction*)

Notice that we are looking for three distinct concepts (using several synonyms to find articles that might use different terms than we expect), and excluding another entirely. It may seem like a hassle to do it this way, but we get a much more focused, manageable list of articles than if we had just searched for ‘conflict theory’ and hoped for the best. Spending extra time to craft a good search always pays off when you don’t have to wade through page after page of irrelevant results.

Of course, social theory requires skills and resources that aren’t shared by all other disciplines. And we have special sources for these, too.


When social theory is used by policy makers and legislators, the opinions and viewpoints of many competing parties come into play. And while most scholarly material tries to minimize bias, you may be researching a topic where that bias is of paramount importance – either to understand it as a source for conflict, or to advocate for a contentious position yourself.

That’s where Opposing Viewpoints in Context comes in.  This database includes information on all the major social issues, and does include some news and research content – but its main distinction are ‘viewpoint’ articles, written by partisan leaders and clearly and articulately stating the positions and beliefs of each side in the major cultural and social struggles.  These articles make no pretense of being unbiased, but they are an unparalleled source for quickly finding cogent and well-reasoned descriptions of major social viewpoints.


Sometimes, especially when researching an unfamiliar topic, the added dimension that films give to communicating ideas can be very helpful. One such video database is VAST, which includes documentaries, newsreels, counseling sessions, and raw field recordings that help depict the social element of the human condition. Videos include elements of current events, cultural studies (including anthropological research), and major social issues involving law, religion, education, and more. The videos play next to an interactive transcript, allowing you to quickly access the material of most interest to you.

sociology vast

With lots of sociology resources like these available to you, you are well on your way to doing great research. But if you have any questions, please contact us at!

Science Questions

August 4th, 2014

This summer, we’ve been looking at how to do insightful, quality research at IU East.  And while there are great general sources and techniques available that benefit any researcher, each discipline has its own special sources and quirks.  This week, we’ll look at the natural sciences.  If you’ve been following these columns, you’ll notice that there is some overlap with mathematics, since math is in many ways the ‘language’ of science.  People who are good at science often first studied math.

school of athens by raphael

Science is an incredibly broad topic, and which scientific discipline you are interested will affect your searching.  For example, finding current material (books and articles published in the last few years) is vitally important in most topics of biology or the environmental sciences.  But if you’re looking at physics or astronomy, especially their foundational principles, older stuff will be equally useful, allowing you the use of an archival database like JSTOR.

Good general research databases include ProQuest Science, Science & Technology, Wiley Online Library, AAAS/Science, and MathSciNet (although this one only offers citations, so use it far enough in advance of your due date to make use of interlibrary loan).  If you need ebooks, try the science section of the Gale Virtual Reference Library, which specializes in encyclopedias.  And if you need a specific scientific discipline, such as biology, you might choose ProQuest Biology Journals or BioOne.  Other discipline-specific databases include Environmental Science Journals, Nature Journals Online, and Reaxys (for chemistry).  All of our science-related databases can be found here.

So, if we had a topic like “what biological needs were met in the evolution of the beak?” we might start with a search like this one:

(evolution OR morpholog*) AND (beak OR bill OR rostrum) AND (purpose OR function OR effect)

As you can see, we are searching for three main concepts, and have included various synonyms for each one.  Complex searches like this can save us time later by giving us much more relevant search results.

One additional requirement that you may be given in science research is to find and use primary sources.  ‘Primary sources’ means anything written directly by a participant.  Like we encountered when we looked at psychology, in the ‘hard’ sciences, this usually means original research studies in which the author of the article took part in the research process.  To identify these types of articles, quickly browse through the full text of the article and see if it describes a study being done.  If one is, the paper will tend to include sections with subtitles like ‘methods’, ‘analysis’, ‘results’, etc.  If the article only describes what others have done without doing its own research, it is a secondary source.  For example, this paper is a primary source and this paper is not.  This is not to say that secondary sources are any less scholarly or valuable than primary sources – if fact, they can take a longer perspective than an article testing a single hypothesis.  Both types have their place and times when they are most valuable.

Of course, the natural sciences have more specialized questions that are not mirrored by other disciplines.  Fortunately, we have plenty of sources for these, as well.


Teaching science to students can be a special challenge.  Gale Science in Context has a lot of traditional reference database content – journal articles, maps, audio, images, and Gale’s extensive science encyclopedia sets – but it also includes material focused on the teaching of science to a variety of ages.  It includes numerous topic overviews, experiments, biographies, curriculum standards (both American and international), news and new developments, and information on contentious topics like animal testing, vaccinations, stem cell research, or string theory with minimal bias.  These are not built to ‘teach the controversy’ like Opposing Viewpoints, however – articles are focused on laying out the scientific evidence rather than arguing for a policy perspective.


Scientists are usually dispassionate, but there are times when their work influences and intersects with activism and public policy, and environmentalism is one major area where this is the case.  While many science databases cover the environment and humanity’s relationship with it, GreenFILE is a database wholly dedicated to the topic.  It includes both academic research and government reports on topics ranging from agricultural sustainability and GMOs to pollution to recycling to renewable energy.  For policy-oriented science research, this is an excellent resource.


Sometimes, dense scientific works can be difficult to understand.  For people who learn more by seeing than reading, IU East has a number of video databases.  Most notable is JoVE – the Journal of Visualized Experiments – which functions like a normal journal, even being subject to peer review.  It covers biological, medical, chemical and physical research topics, but the ‘articles’ are narrated in video, describing their protocols and showing you how the research is conducted on the screen.  The articles are still very complex – this is much more advanced science then the kind described by educators like Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson – but the added visual and auditory components can help enormously in understanding the content.

jove video database

A more traditional video database is VAST, which includes documentaries, lectures, and other types of instructional videos.  It is stronger on the biological sciences than it is physics, chemistry, or engineering.  And the Khan Academy is also available on the free web, with videos in all of the major science fields (you will need to create an account with them to watch their videos).

With great science resources like these available to you, you’ll be able to do excellent research.  But if you have any questions, please contact us at!

Psychology Questions

July 28th, 2014

This week, in our ongoing series on how to do research in the major disciplines at IU East, we will look at psychology.  Psychology courses can have a lot of potential research topics – you might be looking for a theorist, a type of treatment, historical issues in psychology, or approach from a mental health perspective.

Most types of psychology research are well supported by the general techniques we explored at the beginning of this series.  Several databases are tailored for this, including PsycINFO and ProQuest Psychology.  If you are interested in a historical topic, a database like JSTOR may also be of value.  All of our other psychology-related databases can be found here.


So, for example, if we were interested in a question like “how reproducible are the results of psychological studies?” we might try a search like this:

(study OR research) AND (result* OR finding*) AND (reproduc* OR replic* OR duplic*)

You can see that we are searching for three main concepts, and using several possible words for each of them to get the best available results.  By the same token, if we had a topic about a specific theory, such as “what goes into the feedback response in Social Learning Theory, excluding extreme cases that involve violence?” we might use a search like this one:

“social learn*” AND (feedback OR respons* OR reinforc*) NOT (violen* OR crim*)

Much like the first search, we are using synonyms for several concepts in order to get articles that use different words for the same thing – only this time, we are including two concepts and excluding a third.  Searching like this can help us get a fuller picture of what is available.  If you just search for one term and don’t get back very much, consider modifying your search terms to look more like this one.

One additional requirement that you may be given is to find and use primary sources.  Primary sources are anything written directly by a participant.  In a research field like psychology, this generally means original research studies in which the author of the article took part in the research process.  To identify these, quickly browse through the full text of the article and see if it describes a study being done.  If one is, usually the paper will include sections with subtitles like ‘methodology’, ‘participants’, ‘analysis’, ‘results’, etc.  If the article only describes what others have done without doing its own research, it is a secondary source.  For example, this paper is a primary source and this paper is not.

Of course, the study of psychology has its own unique needs that are not mirrored by other disciplines.  Fortunately, we have sources for these, as well.


Psychology frequently requires building and administering tests, whether those are to test the mental faculties of a person or to examine a moral or behavioral reaction they might have.  Being able to construct and run a good test is imperative to get meaningful results.  While no one database is dedicated to making, running, and critiquing tests, we have a number of books that are, so you might want to start with an ebook database like Ebrary, EBSCO Ebooks, Wiley Online Library, or OxRef and search for ‘psychological tests’.  A sample of titles in these databases include Essentials of Psychological Testing by Susana Urbina, IQ and Psychometric Tests: Assess Your Personality, Aptitude and Intelligence by Phillip Carter, Psychological Testing: An Introduction by George and Marla Domino, and Dictionary of Psychological Testing, Assessment and Treatment by Ian Stuart-Hamilton.

psychology test the answer is d


When studying the history of psychology, the careers and theories of its various practitioners are often major topics.  How a psychologist introduced or refined a theory often still has implications for modern practice.  To learn more about these theorists, you might use any of the ebook sources listed in the previous section.  Or, you might use a biographical database, like Biography in Context, which in addition to including long and short biographies, also has academic journal articles and primary sources from the subject’s life.  It includes numerous theorists from Jung to Skinner to Bandura to Freud to Glasser to Bloom and beyond.

psych biography in context

With plenty of good psychology resources available to you, you’ll be well positioned to do excellent research.  But if you have any questions, please contact us at!


Math Questions

July 21st, 2014

This week, we will continue our series on the research needs of the major disciplines taught at IU East with a look at mathematics.  People approach math for numerous reasons – studying historical mathematics or mathematicians, practical math (including solving problems and learning formulas), using math as a ‘language’ for another discipline, such as engineering or one of the sciences, or for researching new or unproven hypotheses.  Studying these disparate elements requires different approaches.  Math is also a diverse field, and the needs and goals of, say, calculus are much different from those of geometry or statistics.  They use a common ‘language’, but their purpose and what each subfield describes are quite distinct.  Some tacks are similar to research performed in other fields, and can be handles by standard databases.

Because mathematics can be said to deal in raw truth more than other disciplines (for example, no matter what language you speak or number base system you use, if you mess around with circles long enough, you’ll eventually encounter pi), currency is generally not a factor, making a database like JSTOR ideal – articles written decades ago will almost always be as accurate as newer ones.  Wiley Online also provides wide math coverage from number theory to discrete equations, as well as tying it to other STEM fields.  MathSciNet is a very large database, but only includes article citations – use it far enough in advance of your due date to use interlibrary loan.  Some education databases like ERIC also contain great mathematics content.  And if you want videos, try the Khan Academy on the free web (you will need to create an account with them to watch their videos).  All of our other math-oriented databases can be found listed here.


So, if we were interested in researching Axiomatic Geometry, but specifically only since Euclid, we might pick JSTOR and try a search like this one:

geometry AND (axiom* OR postulate* OR synthetic) NOT euclid*

Notice that we are using general techniques and searching for several concepts at once (as well as excluding another).  We have used several synonyms for ‘axiomatic’ in order to make sure we get the articles we need on the topic, just in case the authors use a less standard word to describe it.  In the same way, if we were looking for proofs in multilinear algebra, we might try a search like this:

algebra* AND (multilinear OR multivector) AND proof*

Even though we are looking for practical rather than historical mathematics here, our search structure remains much the same.  But practical math – solving problems, testing or establishing proofs, applying formulas – can have special needs for a researcher, beyond these types of databases.


Most of what math classes entail is not scholarship about math history.  It’s learning how to do it.  And many of the practical concerns of math education can be served by books rather than journals.  In the physical library, the entire QA range deals with math books.  When you look through the shelves in our library, everything that has a call number beginning with QA is the section you want to browse.  QA101-141.8 deals with basic arithmetic, QA150-272.5 is for algebra, QA273-280 is statistics, and QA440-699 is for geometry and trigonometry books.  We have many ebooks, too – and these can be used for historical topics, such as the development of medieval Arab mathematicians, as well as the more practical topics of problems or proofs.

Dissertations are also a good source for exploring math topics, and ProQuest Dissertations is an excellent source for these.  Many are available in full text, on topics throughout the spectrum of math subjects.  And to find formulas, there are plenty of free sources online for tables, formulas, conversions, and other major tools of practical math work, such as the ones produced by Math Medics.  Consult them for quick reference.

math tables

With so many quality mathematics resources available to you, you’ll be able to do great research.  But if you have any questions, please contact us at!

Social Work Questions

July 14th, 2014

In the tenth part of our summer research series, we’ll be looking at social work.  Like the other disciplines we’ve examined so far, the study of social work will benefit from knowledge of the general techniques we covered in the first week.  But there is plenty more to understand about this field, and how to get the best information available.

For general research, you would want to start with one of our academic databases.  SocIndex, ProQuest Social Science Journals, or Social Theory are good places to begin.  If you need ebooks, the Social Sciences eBook Collection and eBrary both have solid collections.  And for videos, try Counseling and Therapy in Video.  All our social work and social science databases can be found here.

So, let’s say that we are interested in researching the effects of person-centered theory on the process of counseling in social work practice, but that we don’t want to look at any psychological application of it.  Using our general techniques, we might build a search like this one:

social work* AND (counsel* OR guid*) AND (person center* OR pct OR client center*) NOT psyc*

As you can see, we are looking for three key concepts in our question, and excluding a fourth.  We have grouped synonyms together, to make sure we don’t miss a good article just because it used a different word.  And while it looks time consuming, building a search this way saves you time later on looking through page after page of irrelevant articles sifting for the diamond in the rough.

But social work is a field that has significant overlap into other disciplines – economics, psychology, law, and medicine are just a few areas with potential crossover, depending on your topic.  Consider using databases from one of these disciplines as a supplement.  If you are researching health problems faced by those in need of care, a database like Health Source might be useful to you.  Similarly, legal regulations might be covered in Lexis Nexis, and mental health needs in PsycInfo.

If you do use supplementary databases, though, you may want to include “social work*” at the beginning of your search phrase, like in the example above.  While this is generally unnecessary in a social work database, where everything relates to social work, it is useful for filtering out unrelated articles in a database with a wider scope.

But the study of social work has a number of special needs and resources, as well.


This core reference set has served social workers for almost a century, and is produced by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).  Currently in its 20th edition, the Social Work Encyclopedia and its supplements are available online or physically in the library at the call number HV35.S6.  Whether your topic is ethics or interventions with children or therapeutics or case management, this extensive encyclopedia and its bibliographies can greatly enhance your research.  In the online version, the more than 400 individual articles can be saved as PDFs.

encyclopedia of social work


In understanding social work, you often have to examine a particular theory, and the theorist behind it.  To do this, it is helpful to have a biographical source.  In addition to the previously listed Encyclopedia of Social Work, which includes over 200 biographies of prominent theorists and practitioners (choose ‘biographies’ in the ‘browse by subfield’ box), you might also try Biography in Context (search ‘by occupation’ and type ‘social worker’, or by name with a specific person).


The best single source for statistical data is usually the United States government, and that is true in the social services, as well.  One major resource is the Center for Disease Control’s FaStats, which includes a number of metrics concerning the health and needs of the US Population.  Another source of interest is the County and City Data Book, produced by the US Census Bureau.  With many tables on social services uses and expenditures, it is a good way to find major benchmarks.  It is also good for comparing local data to the rest of the state or to the country.

cdc statistics

With so many social work resources available to you, you’ll be able to do great research for projects on any topic.  But if you have any questions, please contact us at!