SOC 304: U.S. Inequalities and Social Justice

women protestingThis is a resource guide for Professor Nikki Raeburn's Spring 2013 course, U.S. Inequalities and Social Justice. For individual research assistance, contact Reference Librarian Sherise Kimura at For immediate assistance, go to 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 or new findings to the world. Usually the purpose is revealed in the abstract or summary of the source. 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 and 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. See Anatomy of a Scholarly Article.
  • See the differences between Scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular magazines.

Additional Tips for Books

  • Currency:  Is the information current enough for your purposes? Is a historical perspective important?
  • Publisher:  Books published by university press or professional associations are likely to be scholarly.
  • Book reviews:  Find book reviews by looking in the library catalog or a general library database

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

Find Articles

preschool kidsSearch the following databases to find relevant journal, magazine, and newspaper 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. 
  • JSTOR Multi-disciplinary digital archive of back issues (JSTOR generally lacks the latest three years) of hundreds of scholarly journals. Searches the full-text of articles. 
  • Political Science Complete Abstracts and full-text articles covering comparative politics, humanitarian issues, international relations, law and legislation, non-governmental organizations, and political theory.
  • ERIC The world's largest source of education information, contains more than a million abstracts of documents and journal articles on education research and practice.
  • PsycINFO Citations and abstracts of scholarly articles, books, book chapters, conference papers, and dissertations in the field of psychology and related disciplines. 
  • EconLit Citations of scholarly articles, books, and other sources, in economics.
  • Communication Source Abstracts and full text for journals in communication and media studies. 
  • Ethnic NewsWatch Includes newspaper, newsletter, and magazine articles of the ethnic, minority, and native press. 
  • Chicano Database Produced by the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley, serves as an index of material on the Mexican-American, Chicano, and broader Latino experience. 
  • 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.

See more library databases in other subjects. 

Find Articles Not Available in Full-Text

If the full-text of an article is not available, click on the USF: Find Full-Text link or check to see if your article is available at the USF libraries. Alternatively, you can search the library's Journal Finder by journal title. For help using USF: Find Full-Text, see this video tutorial

Find Articles Not at USF

If the library doesn't have access to the journal article you want, you can still get it through Interlibrary Loan. With an ILLiad account, you can place your requests online. Using ILLiad, you may receive your article anywhere from a few days to three weeks. Be sure to start your research early!  Also know there may be a charge to acquire your article.

Find Books and Videos

To find books and videos at USF, search the library catalog. The catalog searches broad descriptions of books and videos. 

Search by Keyword
  • Search by keyword using your own terms and use the limits on the left-hand side of the results screen to focus your search. Keywords are words you would normally think of to describe your topic. They can appear anywhere in the record (title, author, subject, publisher, etc.)
  • Use keywords, titles, or authors, to point you to relevant subject headings. For example, when searching gay parenting, the book below came up as a result. Click on any relevant subject headings that appear at the bottom of the record. Searching gay parents as a subject retrieves many books that did not appear when searching gay parenting as a keyword. 
  • Subject headings are "official" subject headings approved by the Library of Congress; they are hard to guess on your own. 

 gay parenting

Find Books and Videos in other Libraries Using Link+

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

Cite Your Sources