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SOC 200 & 215 Assignment Playbook

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Assignment: Mini Literature Review

For this assignment, you will summarize the major points and arguments of a number peer-reviewed articles selected by you based on your choice of topic. 



Step 1: Understand the Assignment

  • Read the assignment instructions to make sure you understand what's required.
  • If you have any questions, contact your instructor immediately. Your instructor is the only one who can clarify the instructions. 

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Step 2: Choose and Develop Your Topic

Before you begin to look for sources, think of potential topics to study from a sociological perspective. Your instructor accepts a wide variety of topics, as long as they are investigated through the lens of sociology and the analysis is objective; that is, not influenced by personal feelings or opinions.

For inspiration, look at the American Sociological Association's topic page. You can also use your textbook's table of contents as inspiration, or browse a database or journal. 


To focus your topic, think of the following:

What demographic are you interested in?

Examples: Children, men, women, single mothers, grandparents, etc.


What aspects or specific concepts are you interested in? 

Example: If your topic is divorce, an aspect of it could be how it affects children


What geographic area are you interested in?

Example: Europe, the United States,t the US Midwest, etc.


What specific historical or current time period are you interested in?

Example: The 1950s, the Jim Crow era, etc. 


Why and/or how is the topic important to sociology?

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Step 3: Identify Keywords

What are keywords?

Keywords are also known as key terms. They're not just any word, but specific words that tie directly to a topic; this is why they are key, that is, essential to the specific topic.  For example, if the topic is heart disease, a key term would be blood pressure

Why are keywords important?

The choice of keywords greatly influences your search results.  When students say "I can't find anything about my topic," this typically means that they have not used the right key terms in their search.  This is why identifying key terms needs to be done before searching begins. 

So how do I identify keywords?

  • Pick the most concrete nouns from your research question or thesis. For example, if your research question is "How does divorce affect children's academic success?" you would pick divorce, children, academic success
  • Read an overview of your topic.  This will have important terms that are used by writers and researchers in the topic. Best place for overviews: encyclopedias and books.  
  • Run a quick search in your topic, and look at article titles and article summaries. Databases often provide you with a list of subject terms that can also be helpful. 

OK, I have some keywords. Now what?

Now you can begin running some searches in the databases and online journals. Try simple searches using the AND connector, which connects concepts together and retrieves more targeted results. For example: 

Divorce AND children AND academic success

What if I still need help?

Meet with a librarian and get help brainstorming keywords. All it takes is some practice and pretty soon you'll be a keyword generating machine. 

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Step 4: Find Research Articles

See the resources below. These are your best choices for finding sources for this assignment. 

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Sociology Compass

Sociology Compass logo

Sociology Compass is a peer reviewed sociology journal, so any article you select from it will already meet the assignment requirement for peer reviewed sources.
  • To access the journal, click on the link or the image.  If you're off campus, you may have to login to MyPVCC to gain access.
  • Click on the search box located at the top of the page on the right hand side of the page.
  • To conduct a basic search, use descriptive terms such as
    • American marriage
    • divorce AND children
    • stepfamilies AND kinship
    • intimate partner violence

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SocINDEX logoSocINDEX is a sociology research database.

  • To access this database, click the link or the image. Note that you may have to login if you're off campus. 
  • To search, use one or more of the search boxes, and enter descriptive terms such as
    • American marriage
    • divorce AND children
    • stepfamilies AND kinship
    • intimate partner violence
  • To refine your results and ensure all the sources are peer reviewed, look on the left hand side of the page and find the Limit To section. Click the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) option to limit results to peer reviewed articles.
  • Some articles may not be available in ​full text​. ​This means all you will see is an abstract (summary) of the article, but not the article itself.  To see only articles that available in their entirety, you can click the ​Full Text ​option under ​Limit To.
  • If you are interested in an article that is not in full text via SocINDEX, try one of the following strategies:
    • Click the word Lincit​ (located under the article's abstract). If the article is available through another library database, you will be taken to it. If not, you will see a message to that effect, in which case you can
    • Request that the library obtain the article for you from another library. This is called interlibrary loan​, and to request this free service, all you need to do is fill out this form

Identifying a journal's title in the SocINDEX database

When searching a database, your results will come from different journals. To identify the title of the journal in the SocINDEX database, look at the information towards the top of each result, as in the images below. The journal's name comes after the authors' names.  Notice that date, volume and issue  information can also be found there. 

red box outlining journal name search result


red box outlining journal name search result


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Citing Your Sources

The best style to use to cite your sources for this assignment is the American Sociological Association's style (ASA).  Learn how to use the ASA style.

The APA style would be a second choice.

You can also use the MLA style, but it is not really appropriate for this discipline.

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