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SOC 573: Demographic Techniques

Course guide to support SOC 573

Lesson Objectives

In this lesson you will be introduced to a number of secondary resources that will help you explore your topic. Keep in mind that you may not be able to discover relevant material from each of the different types of secondary resources, but you should be familiar with all of them as you develop your research skills. These varied strategies create a comprehensive search plan.  

The goal is for you to find and identify 2 to 3 resources you can use to inform you as you write your Demographic Report for this class. 

Once you work through this lesson you will:     

  1. Identify and supply two secondary sources in order to develop a file of credible secondary sources that you will use while conducting research for your Demographic Report
  2. Explore strategies for finding and evaluating articles in reference resources in order to diversify your information portfolio. 
  3. Identify strategies for finding and evaluating articles specifically focusing on research methodology in order to locate resources for your final assignment.
  4. Express strategies for finding materials related to books in order to refine and narrow your topic.
  5. Seek strategies for finding review articles in order to engage in discussion on why these can be helpful to ground your research. 

What are secondary resources?

Secondary resources in the social sciences are information sources that provide an in-depth discussion of research on a topic or an overview of it. These resources are very useful for seeing the bigger picture as well as identifying important research that has been conducted in that subject domain. In sum, use secondary sources to:

  • Provide a general background in your topic
  • Help identify important authors
  • Lead to significant works

Encyclopedia Articles

What is wrong with using Wikipedia?  

Nothing is wrong with using Wikipedia as long as you understand its limitations, particularly as it relates to academic research. Information on Wikipedia is contributed freely by anyone who wants to post information without any consideration for the authority or credibility of the author.  

Does this mean that all of the information on Wikipedia is inaccurate? No, it simply means that you need to be more cautious about the information and recognize that this is a dynamic resource that changes overtime. Consequently, it is not good practice to cite Wikipedia entries in academic research, but Wikipedia can be a great resource as you begin to explore a topic, or to settle a bet with your roommate.  

What other choices do you have? How do you evaluate encyclopedias?

The University Libraries provide access to many specialized encyclopedias in a variety of fields of study. However, you should also be prepared to evaluate each for their scholarly value. Below are some suggestions of what to look for:

  • Who is the publisher?  
    • Typically those published by university presses are considered scholarly (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, etc...)
    • These commercial publishers typically publish academic content: Blackwell, De Gruyter, Elsevier, Gale, Macmillan, Peter Lang, Routledge, Sage, Springer Publishers, Thomson Reuters
  • Who are the editors of the encyclopedia?  
    • Usually found in the front cover.  
    • What are their credentials?
  • Who are the authors?

Helpful Resources and Hints for Finding Articles in Encyclopedias

Video: Gale Virtual Reference is a collection of over 1000 scholarly and general reference resources. This video will demonstrate how to find articles using the topic "fertility rates." Showing you how to:

  • Limit your search

  • Expand your search

  • Point out some of the important features of an article to keep in mind

  • Explore information about the encyclopedia

  • Demonstrate how to cite the article using APA.

EL Lesson 2: Library Search Gale Virtual Reference Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Handbooks

What are handbooks?

Often times a particular topic gains ongoing scholarly interest that attracts the interest of a publisher or research organization. Authors who are known in the particular field of study are often asked to contribute chapters or to provide editorial oversight for these types of publications. Handbooks can provide a useful overview of the topic and help you identify some of the "movers and shakers" in that particular area of research.   

Below is a short list of handbooks you might want to explore. Of particular importance for this course is The Population Reference Bureau's Handbook.

Helpful Resources and Hints for Finding Handbooks   

Video: Using LionSearch for Discovering Handbooks.  LionSearch allows you to search multiple databases at one time. This video will demonstrate how to find articles from scholarly handbooks using the topic "poverty rates." Showing you how to:

  • Start your search
  • Limit your results
  • Track key information for future searches
  • Demonstrate how to cite the article using APA.

EL Lesson 2: Using LionSearch for Handbooks Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

QUICK SEARCH TIP FROM THE VIDEO: use the advance search in the resource LIONSEARCH Type in the search terms you are looking for. For example: population and poverty levels. In the next search box, but in the term "handbook" and change it from ALL FIELDS to TITLE.

Collection of Useful Titles

Journal Review Articles

What is a review journal?  A review journal in academic publishing is an academic journal devoted to the review of progress of empirical research in some particular area or topic during a preceding period often through the means of its publishing review articles.

Books & Book Chapters

Finding Books

Academic books are an incredible format for discovering comprehensive overviews of topics. The downside is that reading them can be quite time consuming unless you have developed reading strategies. How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren is a classic book to help you develop and think about ways to approach reading.

We will be looking at two strategies that can be useful research for your Demographic Report:

  • Book Reviews
  • Finding Edited Books         

Before we focus on finding book reviews and edited books, you should know how to find books.

There are a number of good tutorials and guides that have been created by the University Libraries to help you find books. Rather than recreate these, you can explore them by following the links below:

Book review

Description: book reviews are articles that will often provide you with a summary of the book as well as a critical analysis by someone other than the author.

There are indexes or journals that are strictly devoted to publishing review articles of books. However, it is more useful to find book reviews in scholarly journals for particular subject domains for a more critical analysis. You can do this in LionSearch by limiting your search to Scholarly Journals and the type Book Review. Or you can search in a subject domain search engine like Sociological Abstracts and limit to the type Book Review.

Video: Using LionSearch to Discover Book Reviews & Book Chapters. Demonstrates how to find book review articles in scholarly journals by showing you how to:

  • Find scholarly book review articles using as an example “poverty rates” in LionSearch
  • Find the book it is reviewing
  • Find other book reviews on the same book 

EL Lesson 2: Using LionSearch for Book Reviews Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Research Method Publications & Tools

Research methods in demography are dynamically changing, but there are certain foundational concepts, all of which are written about and documented. I've included this type of article simply to let you know that including these in your Demographic Report can provide an added measure of authority and professionalism.  

Most of what you will be using for your Demographic Report can simply be found in The Population Reference Bureau's Population Handbook. However, I would encourage you to explore Sage Research Methods Online as a resource for scholarly material on a broad range of disciplinary methods.