Writing Across the Social Sciences

Using your Textbook and Online Databases for Research

The best source for interesting topics is likely your textbook. Not only does it provide for a huge collection of topics, but it also provides you with some references to some of the best research being done on that topic.

Let's say you want to do some research on communication between men and women. You are in trouble:

  • There are whole books written on this topic, let alone a paper!
  • You don't have a question yet so how are you going to find information to answer it?

Here are the steps that I take:

  1. Check out related research that is listed in your book. This puts you in touch with some research that has been done and also introduces you to specific terms that might be used by those who study this topic
    • terms that are going to be important for your "communication bewteen men and women" topic include:
      • gender
      • communication
      • gender differences
      • interpersonal
      • communication styles
      • interepersonal relationships
    • In addition, in the back of your book you will find references to Peer Reviewed Articles that have been published on your topics
      • You find the section in your book that has to do with your topic
      • In that section you will find references to real research being done...the authors and the date of the publication are listed in the textbook like this: (Kavanaugh, 2005)
      • Look up the name and year in the back of the book in the References section and you can see all the information you need to find the original article in the Online Databases
  2. If you need to, reference the section on using Google and get names and topics from there
  3. Now that you have some names and some potential topics...you need to go find out what these leading researchers are doing NOW...you can also look up some of the specific topics and ideas you got...so where do you go to find out what these folks are doing NOW? To the library online databases
  4. The KVCC library maintains an extensive collection of online, searchable, databases that contain Peer Reviewed Articles (see the tutorial section on Peer Reviewed Articles) from authors such as the ones listed above
  5. For a brief tutorial on how to use the Online Databases, see that section in this tutorial...learning how to use search strings. quotes, and then limiting your results to "peer reviewed" and "full text" are skills you can acquire best when you are actually in the Library databases.
  6. Read the Abstracts of the articles to see which ones catch your eye
    • Abstracts are the short summaries of the articles you find that go over the basic premis and findings in the article
    • This should help you identify some interesting questions that can then be formulated into your Research Questions!
  7. When you find a good article that seems to be about what you want to study...take a look at the last pages of the article. The author has listed all the PAST research that has contributed to their thinking when they wrote the article you are reading. This provides you with a great list of articles to look up!


Evaluating Your Sources
Use this checklist to be sure that your sources are reliable and academic.