Social Science 101 – Kistler

About this Guide

This guide provides students with tips and recommended resources for their research in Social Science 101 with Professor Kistler. Use the tabs above to navigate through the pages of the guide.

Your Assignment

Your assignment requires you to explore a social justice topic from the perspective of different social science disciplines. Your group will use background information to help you formulate a research question. Each student will find more in-depth information in research articles from the perspective of their specific social science discipline.

Writing Assistance

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Library Tutorials

Interested in learning more about the library on your own?
Explore the library’s online tutorials.

Narrowing Your Topic

Your group’s social justice topic should be focused, but not so narrow that you cannot find enough information about it from the perspective of the different social science disciplinary “lenses” you are using. To help you narrow or focus your topic, watch the “Research Questions” video below.

Research Questions

A research question articulates exactly what you want to know about your topic, and helps guide your research. Your research question should be specific, but open-ended.

The video below offers some tips for creating open-ended research questions.


Keywords are the words you type into a search box to search for information on your topic. The words you use to describe your topic may be different from the words used by scholars in different social science disciplines. Watch the video below for a short tutorial on keywords. If you have trouble finding information on your topic, ask a librarian for help choosing the best keywords to use in your search.

Video courtesy of Ray Howard Library at Shoreline Community College (CC BY-NC 3.0 US)

Reference Sources

Reference sources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries can help you narrow a topic, find background information, and identify keywords to use in your searches for books and articles.

Print Reference Books
These resources are available in the Luria Library Reference section, near the Reference & Information desk:

  • Encyclopedia of racism in the United States — R 305.800973 M663e
  • Encyclopedia of social issues — R 306.0973 R 845e
  • Encyclopedia of contemporary American social issues — R306.0973 S528e
  • Encyclopedia of social problems — R 361.1 P261e

Online Reference Sources
To access this database from off campus, you will be prompted to enter your Pipeline username and password:

  • Credo Reference Contains the full text of over 850 encyclopedias and other reference books.

Nonfiction Books

Books and book chapters can be a good source of background information. Search the library library catalog (books+) for print and online books on your topic.

Try adding one of these phrases to to your own keywords to get more focused results:

    political aspects
    social aspects
    social conditions
    social justice


Use the following databases to find articles from periodicals. To find background information (rather than more narrowly-focused scholarly information), limit your search to magazines and newspapers. These resources will require your Pipeline account information when you access them off campus.

For a variety of types of articles on a wide range of subjects:

  • Academic Search Complete Provides the full text of articles from over 8,500 periodicals in all subject areas, including nearly 7,300 scholarly journals.

For pro/con information on current or controversial issues, try searching one of these databases:

  • CQ Researcher Provides in-depth, unbiased coverage of both sides of controversial issues related to health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, and the economy.
  • Opposing Viewpoints Provides opinions and other information on hundreds of social issues. Includes a variety of types of sources including viewpoint articles, topic overviews, full-text magazines, academic journals, and news articles.

For newspaper articles, try searching one of these sources:

  • US Newsstream Provides full-text access to current U.S. news content from newspapers, newswires, blogs, and news sites. Archives dating back to the 1980s are also included. Specific titles include: New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Wall Street Journal; Christian Science Monitor; Washington Post; and USA Today, as well as hundreds of local and regional newspapers.
  • Newspaper Source Provides full text for 35 national & international newspapers. The database also contains selective full text for more than 375 regional (U.S.) newspapers. Full text television & radio news transcripts are also provided.

Identifying Research and Review Articles

You assignment requires you to find research studies and/or review articles in scholarly journals representing your specific disciplinary lense. Most articles found in social science journals are research or review articles, but other articles may include scholars’ opinions about trends in the particular social science field.

Research Articles
The video below can help you determine whether an article is a research article (it was created for students in COMM 121 & 122, but the information about the elements of research articles applies to any social science discipline):

Anatomy of Research Articles (read the transcript here)

Review Articles
Review articles may give you a broader view of your topic, because they review many previous research studies rather than reporting the results of one particular study.

Some library databases allow you to limit your search by type of article. To limit to review articles, select “Advanced Search,” then select “Review” under “Document Type.” (Do not select “Book Review.”)

Finding Articles from Specific Social Science Disciplines

Start with one of the databases listed for your discipline, or one of the multidisciplinary databases. You can also use the library catalog (books+) to search for peer-reviewed articles from multiple databases at one time. Just limit your search to articles to eliminate the book results.

Keep in mind that even the discipline-specific databases may include journals from related discipline. Determine the discipline based on the article itself, not on the database where you found it. To count as an article from your disciplinary lense, the article’s author, the journal, or both must represent that discipline.

This video reviews what we covered during class about how you can investigate the discipline(s) associated with the article’s author(s) and with the journal itself (note that I say “database” at the very end when I mean “journal” — oops!).

Multidisciplinary — Start here for most topics




Ethnic Studies


Political Science



Evaluating Sources

Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation Questions to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible:

  • Purpose: How and why the source was created. Is it intended to educate, inform, persuade, sell, or entertain? Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it? Why was this information published in this particular type of source (book, article, website, blog, etc.)? Is the source designed for the general public, students, or experts?
  • Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. Does the type of source meet your assignment’s requirements? Does the information answer your question, support your argument, or add something to your knowledge of the topic? Is it too general or too specific? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally? Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong, emotional, manipulative, or offensive language? Do they leave out, or make fun of, important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. Do the authors support the information they present with strong factual evidence? Do they cite or provide links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic? Can you verify the information in other credible sources? Does the source contradict itself, include false statements, or misrepresent other sources?
  • Expertise: The authority of the creators of the source. What makes the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic? Do they have related education, experience, or other expertise? Do they provide an important alternative perspective? Has the source been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor or through peer review?
  • Newness: The age of the information. Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as science, technology, or current events), or could information found in older sources still be useful? When was the information presented in the source first published or posted? Are newer sources available that would add important information to your understanding of the topic?

How to Cite

Use one of the following guidelines for MLA 8th Edition citation style.

Annotated Bibliographies

The following guide includes an example of an annotation in MLA style.