Social scientists interpret and analyze human behavior, generally making use of empirical methods of research. Though original data gathering and analysis are central to social sciences research, researchers also use library resources to:
Subjects of study in the social sciences sometimes cross disciplines and evade the subject heading systems of the best indexes and abstracts. Further, new theories often emerge too quickly for references and guides to keep up. Because of this, the researcher should be prepared to:
- obtain raw data for model building or analysis,
- locate information about a particular model, theory, or methodology to be used in a research project, and
- review the literature to place new research in context.
Each of the social sciences has a well-developed set of research tools to help you find relevant material, whether numerical data or research reports. Though the tools listed here may not be available in every library, they will give you ideas to start with. Consult a librarian for help in locating available information.
- systematically identify useful search terms in indexes and abstracts and work from most recent to older sources,
- follow leads given in citations — often the most efficient way to trace theoretical connections, and
- sort research materials into schools of thought, identifying the key works relevant to a particular problem or question. A review of the relevant literature in a social sciences research project not only should identify what research has been done but should compare and contrast the available information, evaluating its significance.
Use the menu at top right to choose between information on Finding Sources or Documenting Sources within this discipline.