UCB Libraries

SOCY 3401: Field Methods

  • Getting
  • Finding
  • Finding
  • Citing your
  • More
Starting Points

  • Library Home Page
    The Library web site links to all of the resources (and much more) mentioned in this guide.
  • Find Articles & Databases
    Use this page to find databases by topic or search across multiple databases on particular categories.
Starting your Research

Think before you search! No matter which search tool you use (databases, Google, etc.), it always helps to have a search strategy. A little planning at the beginning of your research process will save time. Frame your search strategy in terms of the data pieces you will need.

Search Strategy Worksheet

Think of alternative words to each of your topics. For example, you might be interested in "undergraduates." Think of a broader term, like "student" or "college student." Or maybe think of a narrower term, such as "Freshman" "Sophomore" "Junior" or "Senior." You can use a thesauri or reference book to help you think of a additional terms.

Need help finding background on a particular topic? Try Reference Universe CU to find an overview of a topic.

When searching for materials it is best to think about your topic and the research process from event to publication. For example, take the recent unrest in Baltimore. The likelihood that you will find scholarly articles on this topic is small. Think about the conversation


Event → Newspaper ↔ Trade ↔ Scholarly Article ↔ Book


Sometimes events don't even make it to the end of this spectrum and some only make it part of the way. The time line from event to book can take years and because of the peer-review process it can also take six months to a year for a scholarly article. Do not despair! If your topic is recent think about how to get articles or books in other ways. For example, when examining Baltimore you might think about research on police/citizen interactions or protest movements or race or other aspects.

Searching for Articles

Popular Scholarly
written by journalists, not experts written by scholars
can include glossy photos includes works cited
usually includes advertisements journal is peer-reviewed
intended for general audience intended for academic audience

Find Articles & Databases

Depending on your topic you might find it useful to browse the categories on this page. That being said, the best database for this class is:
  • Sociological Abstracts CU
    This database provides an index to the international literature in Sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences.
    Tips: On the first screen you can limit your results to "peer-reviewed" sources by clicking the check box. To find the full-text of the majority of the titles click the "Find it at CU" icon.
Some tips on choosing articles:
  • Currency
    Peer-reviewed articles take from six months to three years to be published, if you are researching a current topic you are going to find fewer peer-reviewed articles.
  • Using Citations
    Citations can be a very useful tool in two ways when conducting research. If an article has been cited many times, that can help you determine if it is important to the studies in that area. In addition, if you find one article that covers your topic well you can use the citations in that article to find additional information. Google Scholar enables quick checks of citation count and links out to the citations themselves.
  • Evaluating Sources
    Still having trouble determining if a source is credible? Check out the above page for some questions you can ask regarding authors, validity of research and relevance.

Looking for Books

Chinook Classic, advanced search

When searching the catalog, which it is not full-text, it is useful to use a broader search to start. Remember "or" expands your results, where "and" reduces the results. All the links below are in Chinook Classic, if you prefer to use Chinook Plus you need to put an | in place of the OR and remove the "and" between your ().

See this (alcohol abuse) AND (undergraduates)) versus (alcohol abuse OR alcoholism OR drinking) and (undergraduates OR college students OR university students) to see the difference adding in terms causes.

Some tips on choosing books:

  • Government resources
    When researching wars you will often find materials from the US government in our catalog. Depending on your topic these can contain a wealth of information. Hearings, which will generally contain the word "hearing" after the ":" can be a wealth of information on the rhetoric of opposing sides. Hearings generally invite viewpoints from each side of the argument and contain not only written statements, but also the Q&A between the members of congress and the attendees.
  • Browse by Call Number or Subject Heading
    When searching in Chinook Classic (the link above), you have the ability to browse by call number and subject heading. When you find a book that looks useful you can use both these options to help you see if there are other similar resources in the catalog both in print and online.

Sometimes you need some numbers to back up your hypothesis. Here are some of the major sources for the data you might need.

Census Data
The U.S. Census Bureau is a great place for all sorts of data on the citizens of the United States. You can find details as varied as the length of their commute, ethnic and racial breakdown, income, marital status, age and sex breakdowns, just to name a few. There are two sources for this data, one free and one that you have access to through the library.

American Factfinder
This free resource gives you access to all the different data collected by the census. This is not only the census and ACS data, but also includes the Economic Census, Business Patterns, Annual Survey of Manufactures, American Housing Survey and more. This is the powerhouse database, but it is not easiest interface to use, so don't hesitate to contact your librarian for help!

Social Explorer CU
This is the subscription version of the decennial census (back to 1790), American Community Survey (ACS) and religious affiliation data. This tool is very easy to use and gives you the option of creating maps or excel tables.

University of Colorado Data
Just the Facts 2014
This is the basic data on CU, short and not a lot of detail.

Office of Planning Budget and Analysis
This site contains all the detailed data, but it is not the easiest to use. Feel free to contact me if you are confused by a piece of data or can't find the data you expect to find.

Polling Data
In addition to searching for demographic data from the Census, there are number of sources of polling data. Polling and market research focuses on particular topics, such as people who attend particular events, consume foods, have particular opinions, etc.

iPoll CU
iPoll contains US public opinion data from the comprehensive archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

Polling the Nations CU
Polling the nations focuses on a broader international archive of polling data.

Want even more data? This web page breaks down all the various data sources we have access to at CU by subject.

Becoming part of the scholarly conversation means that you need to cite the work that you used to write your paper. Citing your work has actually never been easier due to a variety of tools available to you.

If you want to see some information on guidelines for citing and alternative tools, please check out the library's How do I cite? web page.

My favorite tool, as I demonstrated in class today is Zotero.

Here are a few tools to help you use Zotero:
  1. Zotero downloads
    This is where you go to download add-ons to your browsers, Zotero standalone and World plugins.
  2. Zotero help videos
    Here you can watch some videos on how to use Zotero.
  3. Zotero forum
    Since this software is open source there are lots of people out there working on ways to make Zotero better. This site is a great place to go when you have trouble to see if someone else has found a solution.
Jennie Gerke



In person

Koelbel 200D, Office Hours Tuesday 3-5 or by appointment (Google Calendar or send me an email)




Instant Message

Using the box to the right, you can request assistance during the hours we are logged on.


Chat requires JavaScript.