Selecting a Topic & Background Research

The Library has a large number of subject specific online encyclopedias, companions and handbooks with exhaustive and well-researched entries written by subject experts. These essays are generally helpful startiing points and can help you in defining and focusing your topic. Essays generally include bibliographies that will lead you to further sources on your topic.

Find a sampling of useful sociology and methods resources below.  More encyclopedias, companions and handbooks can be found on the Sociology E-Reference list and in the library's online catalog.

 Sociology Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, etc.

 Research Methods E-Reference


Finding Books

While researching your topic, don’t forget to take a look at the vast collection of books Falvey has to offer.  You are probably accustomed to finding scholarly articles as part of a research project, but books are also a significant area of scholarly publishing.  Don’t forget to hit the stacks! (Or, click through to our many online and e-books.)

To search for books, go to the library’s Search tab, and then click the smaller Books & More tab.  You can search for keywords, or you can use the drop-down menu to search for specific titles or authors.


Finding Scholarly Journal Articles

The most efficient approach to locating scholarly journal articles on any topic is to start out with one of the library’s databases such as Sociological Abstracts. These databases index hundreds of scholarly journals and will link you to articles on your topic of choice.

The library has subscriptions to numerous scholarly sociology journals. The links on the library’s web site are your access point to the full text online. You may be prompted to authenticate as a Villanova student. Use your Villanova user id and email password. You can find some of the same content through Google, but you may not be able to link to the full text.

For interdisciplinary topics, you may need to search subject-specific databases in other subject areas, such as psychology or education.  Check the Subject Guides for other great library resources that may be useful for your research.

 Article Databases in Sociology

 Other Useful Databases

My Research Account - Don't lose your work!

For an extensive research project, it is advisable to create a personal account in the databases that you use most often. These accounts allow you to easily save your search history, as well as useful articles.  Databases will time out after a period of inactivity, and all of your searches and results will be lost if you were not logged in to your personal account.

For sociology research, many databases are searched through the ProQuest platform.  This brief video tutorial will introduce you to the My Research portal in ProQuest.

Getting to Full Text

findit.gif  Once you have identified a useful article, check to see whether it is available in full text from that database.  You will see a link or an icon for an HTML or PDF version of the article (sometimes the full article is displayed below the abstract).  If the article is not available in full text through that database, it may still be available through another vendor.  Click the find it button to see if it is available. 

Citation Chasing - Build on Your Research

Database searching is not the only way to find great scholarly articles for your research project.  Once you have found useful articles, pay attention to the sources those authors use to build their own research.  It is likely that the sources that were important to those authors will also be important to your research.  All scholarly research should include a thorough bibliography or reference list at the end of the article.

Library Materials

To see if Falvey Library owns an article you have seen referenced by other authors, check the Journal Finder.  Either type the title of the journal (not the article) into the search box to then browse for the volume and issue you are looking for.

To search Falvey’s book collection, go to the Search Tab.  Use the drop-down menu to search by the title or author of the book you are looking for.

Interlibrary Loan

Articles and books that are not owned by the library can be easily borrowed through our interlibrary loan systemILLiad is best for requesting articles, and EZBorrow is the preferred method for requesting books that are available in that system.

Moving Forward

Checking an article’s reference list is a great way of searching the past for related research, but how can you find out what impact that article had on future research?  The Cited Reference Search in  Social Sciences Citation Index allows you to do just that.

  Social Sciences Citation Index - Web of Science (Clarivate)

 Data & Statistics

  ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan)  Access Instructions

  Social Explorer

  Statistical Abstract of the United States

Conducting Your Own Interviews and Surveys

Writing your own survey or conducting research interviews can be very challenging.  Luckily, there are resources available to help.

Begin with the E-Reference Resources for Research Methods.  These online encyclopedias can clear up any questions you have about research methods or statistical analysis you may have at any stage of the research process.

If you intend to use a survey or questionnaire as part of your research project, take a look at these books regarding survey methods.

Administer your survey online!  Survey Monkey is a web-based survey platform.  The free version is suitable for most projects.  Google Forms can also be embedded into emails or webpages, or sent as links to collect data for a quick questionnaire or survey.

Conducting research interviews can be even more intimidating than writing your own survey.  Before you dive in, research techniques and best practices with these books about research interviews and focus groups.

Citing Your Sources in APA Style

Even though you have been using APA style for the past 4 years, you may be full of dread at the thought of writing your reference list.  The library is here to help!

Whether writing your reference list by hand or proofreading a bibliography, you will definitely need to have the APA rules on hand.  Check out the resources below:

  • If you find the Publication Manual confusing or scary (or both), try the APA Online Tutorial.  This video guide is clear and easy to watch.  It gives a thorough overview of how to format your paper and cite your sources.
  • For those trickier scenarios (how do I cite my class notes?  how do I cite a blog post?), try searching the APA Style Blog.  This is another official APA site, so it is an authoritative source.