Children, Parents and Schools

Course #: SY423

For your final project, you may choose to do the final research paper, while in fact, both choices, need background information on your topic to support your work whatever it looks like.

Many students come in to see me to find out how to get to really good articles on a wide variety of topics. I've devised a method that works, so I'd like to share it with you. This kind of searching works best on broader topics in the social sciences, -sometimes you have to back up to broader concepts to find what you really want. I will be demonstrating this method to your class today so you can see how it works.

Getting the right wording is the key.

I often start with a sheet of paper with three columns marked on it and try and find one or word to describe each conceptual part of what I'm looking for. Pare down your topic to as few words as possible without losing the idea.Then, I go to the research databases suggested on the Subject Guide page, in this case "Sociology @ ProQuest". Anytime you see an "@" symbol, that means more than one database is being searched at the same time, and we are searching 7 databases with Sociology @ ProQuest.

This process may seem long and involved but it WORKS to help you find really good articles on whatever your topic might be. To find the specific steps involved in my method, please see "How to Anne Kelly your search".

Why this works

There's no point in looking at each of 22,114 articles even if they are ABOUT childrearing because it'll take too long. Adding "school" as a subject heading gets us down to 703 peer-reviewed articles and adding "inequality" refines our search even further and brings us only 9 articles, 7 of which are scholarly. Now generally I try to get down to between 50 and 30 articles, so in this case I might need to change my choices of words. Sometimes only finding 2 words gets you what you need, sometimes it takes 5 steps.

Because our search is specifically targeting topics (not just words), if we don't find what we want immediately, we still have a good list of synonyms to try. Getting good articles is not based on luck, but on being persistent and trying different combinations of synonyms until you get what you are looking for. Many subjects can be searched this way, and each step in "the process" your search becomes a bit more specific, thus better. Waiting until you get all three topics refined is the fastest and best way to be sure you are getting the best results from your searching strategy.

Please don't hesitate to contact me so I can show you how this works in person, or help you find resources on your particular topic.

Some e-books that might be helpful for background: