RHET/SOC 297: Writing in Sociology

Jose Antonio Vargas with image of a licenseThis is a resource guide for RHET 297, Writing in Sociology. To see all sociology resources, go to Research Resources for Sociology.  For research assistance, visit Ask a Librarian.

What is a Scholarly Source?

Scholarly (also referred to as academic) sources are written by experts in a particular field and serve to keep researchers in that field up to date on the most recent research and findings. To determine if your source is scholarly, use these general guidelines:

  • Language:  Is the source written in a scholarly or technical language used in the discipline? 
  • Audience:  Who is the intended audience? Scholarly sources are written for faculty, researchers, and other scholars. 
  • Authorship:  Who is the author of the article?  Is he or she an expert on this topic, as opposed to a reporter who writes on a wide variety of topics? Has this author written other works on this topic? Does the author have an academic affiliation?
  • Peer-Review:  Was your source peer-reviewed or refereed by experts in the field before being accepted for publication?
  • References:  Does the article contain references to other works? Serious researchers and scholars always cite their sources.
  • Purpose:  What is the purpose/intent? Scholarly sources are written to present original research to the world. Usually this is revealed in the abstract or summary. In the abstract, look for variations of the words study, case study, measure, subjects, data, survey, or statistics. 

Additional Tips for Articles

  • Journal Title:  Popular magazines like Newsweek or Time don’t publish research articles; publications like American Sociological Review or American Journal of Sociology do. However, don't assume all sources with journal in the title are scholarly. For example, Ladies Home Journal is a popular magazine, not a scholarly journal. 
  • Article Length:  A scholarly article is usually substantial, not 1 or 2 pages. 
  • Article Format:  Scholarly articles generally following a structure including abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and references. 

Additional Tips for Books

  • Publisher:  Books published by university press or professional associations are likely to be scholarly.
  • Book reviews:  Find book reviews by looking in a sociology or general library database.  

* Content from this section partially adapted from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CSU San Marcos.

Find Background Information

Consult reference sources for background information on your topics.

Find Books and Videos

Every book in the library is assigned a unique call number that classifies the book according to subject. Books are shelved in call number order throughout the library. Books in sociology are scattered across many different call number areas, however, the information below provides a general idea of call number areas and their topics in sociology. Books starting with H are located on the 2nd floor in the North Wing (closest to Lone Mountain) of the library. 

Primary Library of Congress call numbers for Sociology:

E 184 - E 185: American ethnic groups.
HM: Sociology (general and theoretical). Social psychology.
HN: Social history. Social problems. Social reform.
HQ: The family. Marriage. Women. Feminism. Sexual Life. Divorce. 
HT: Communities. Classes. Races. Slavery. Urban Sociology 
HV: Social and public welfare. Substance abuse. Criminology.
HX: Socialism. Communism. Anarchism.
K: Legal issues.
LB: Theory and practice of education.
LC: Educational sociology.

See this guide for a more detailed breakdown of sociology call number areas

For specific call numbers, search the library catalog from the library's home page. The catalog searches broad descriptions of books and videos. 

Search by Keyword

  • Search by keyword using your own terms. Keywords are words you would normally think of to describe your topic. They can appear anywhere in the record (title, author, subject, publisher, etc.)
  • Subject headings are "official" terms that describe a book's content. They are hard to guess on their own. If you find a relevant item, look at the subject headings assigned, and try searching on those. 
  • To find your book, note the LocationCall Number, and Status. If it's not checked out, refer to the Call Number location guides in the Library to see where to find your book. To page an item, click "Request It" in the item record. Your paged items will be ready for you after 5pm the following day at the Circulation Desk. 

catalog example

Find Books and Videos in other Libraries Using Link+

Click the Link+ icon in the library catalog to search for books and videos our library does not own or are checked out. Link+ items arrive in 3-4 days. You may borrow Link+ items for 3 weeks and usually renew for an additional 2 weeks through your library record.  

Find Articles

Search the following databases to find relevant scholarly journal articles.

  • SocIndex with Full Text Abstracts and the full-text of many scholarly journal and popular magazine articles in sociology and sub-disciplines, such as anthropology, criminal justice social work, urban studies, among many others. Includes the full-text of the American Sociological Association (ASA) conference papers from 2005 to present. 
  • America: History and Life Citations and abstracts for publications covering all aspects of U.S. and Canadian history, culture, and current affairs.
  • Political Science Complete Abstracts and full-text articles on political science topics.
  • Fusion Search across the majority of the library's books and articles. Add more keywords or use the limits in the results screen to reduce the number of your results. 
  • Google Scholar Search the scholarly literature in Google. 

See more library databases in other subjects. 

Find Articles Not Available in Full-Text

If the full-text of the article is not available, click "USF: Find Full-Text to see if the full-text is available in another library database, in print in the library, or for free on the Web. For help using USF: Find Full-Text, see this video tutorial.

Database Search Tips

  • Use Boolean operators connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results. The two basic boolean operators are: AND and OR.
    • AND tells the database that ALL search terms must be present in the resulting records. 
      Example: healthcare AND immigrants 
    • OR increases your results, telling the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in the resulting records. 
      Example: migrants OR immigrants
  • Use database “limit” options as needed. Most databases offer these options to limit your results:
    • to scholarly (peer-reviewed) journals
    • by source type (magazines, newspapers, academic journals)
    • by language (e.g., English)
  • Broaden a search by using a truncation symbol with a search term. Most databases use the (*) symbol. For example, immigra* retrieves immigration, immigrant, immigrants, immigrate, immigrates. 
  • Use quotes around search words to force exact phrase searching. Example: "dream act."
  • If the full-text of the article is not available, click "USF: Find Full-Text" to see if the full-text is available in another library database, in print in the library, or for free on the Web. For help using USF: Find Full-Text, see this video tutorial
  • If you still can’t find the full-text, use Interlibrary Loan/Illiad. There may be a charge for Interlibrary Loan (passed on from the lending library), so be sure to indicate you’re willing to pay at least $15 for the item. Also know it can take up to two weeks to your item to arrive. In general, use Interlibrary Loan/Illiad for articles, or books you cannot obtain via Link+.

Cite Your Sources

Photo: Immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas visits USF