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SOCI 004B: Introduction to Social Theory (SC)

Sociology 004B / First-Year Seminar / From Modernity to Postmodernity and Beyond: An Introduction to Social Theory - Braulio Muñoz - Fall 2018

Brainstorm Keywords

Brainstorm a list of possible keywords. You can use this list while searching different sites (e.g. Tripod, JSTOR, etc.).

Keyword Brainstorming Questions:

  • Authorship & Audience -- What terms do anthropologists and sociologists use when discussing your topic?
  • Perspective -- Do terms related to your topic change depending on the standpoint, identities, or beliefs of the speaker?  (e.g. "pro-choice," "anti-choice," "pro-life")
  • Specificity -- What are some broader terms related to your topic? Are there specific cases or examples you can think of?

Try this interactive tutorial from UT Austin Libraries: How to Generate Search Terms

Finding Search Terms

You can use academic research tools with controlled vocabularies to find search terms.

  1. Library Catalogs - Look up a relevant book in Tripod (or Worldcat). Scroll down to the Subjects for search term ideas.

        Example: Standing in the Need [Tripod record]
             Subjects listed for this book:
             • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Social Aspects [--> Tripod search for subject]
             • Disaster Victims [--> Tripod search for subject]
  2. Databases - Search Anthropology Plus or Sociological Abstracts for your topic. Look through search results for Subjects that might be useful search terms.

Strategies to Improve Searches


Find information more effectively and efficiently when searching Tripod, JSTOR, and other sites.

Phrase Searching:

Use this strategy when researching concepts that are phrases (e.g. prison reform). Particularly helpful when you're getting too many results that aren't focused enough.

  • For example, gender identity will search for the words gender AND identity
  • However, "gender identity" in quotation marks will search for only this exact phrase.
  • Beyond Tripod: Phrase searching works in Google and most databases (e.g. AnthroSource, Sociological Abstracts, JSTOR, Proquest)

Synonym Searching:

Save time by searching for multiple synonyms at once.

  • For example: (physician OR doctor) AND (woman OR female)
  • You'll get results that match at least one term from each set of parentheses. 
  • So in this case, you'd get results that contain either (or both) physician or doctor, and that also contain either (or both) woman or female.
  • Beyond Tripod: Many catalogs and databases offer an "advanced search" option. Use the multiple search boxes, parentheses, AND, and OR to combine.

Truncation and Wildcards:

Allow for variations in words by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

  • Example 1: Search for politic* to find poltics, politic, political, politicking, and so on.
  • Example 2: Search for ethnograph* to find ethnography, ethnographic, ethnographies. (Google does this automatically.)
  • Wildcard Search example: Search for wom?n to return results for women and woman.  (Note: this does not work in Google)

Putting it all together:
Combine these search strategies to improve your search results.

Example:  (physician* OR doctor* OR healer*) AND (wom?n OR female)