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SOC 573: Demographic Techniques

Course guide to support SOC 573

Learning Objectives

What is scholarly literature?  

Typically when you hear people use the phrase "scholarly literature" they are talking about scholarly journal articles.  The problem with this idea is that scholarly literature is not published strictly in journal articles. In fact, there is considerable scholarly literature published in book format.  Consequently, many consider the use of the phrase "scholarly literature" to include publications in all formats.

For this lesson we will be focusing on discovering scholarly journal articles to include in your Demographic Report.  Scholarly journal articles differ from other forms of literature in that they required some type of scholarly review process.  Scholarly articles also have a very distinct disciplinary format all of which include a review of literature.

Once you finish this lesson you will:

  1. Locate scholarly literature relevant to your topic in order to begin the information synthesis process for your final Demographic report.
  2. Infer and articulate the essential differences between Google and Google Scholar in order to identify the types of information each resource could contain.
  3. Connect your Google Scholar account to the full-text resource available to you through the University Libraries.
  4. Classify library databases and discover the reasons for wanting to search in these databases.
  5. Integrate search strategies for identifying scholarly literature and incorporating relevant results into your Demographic report.

Google & Google Scholar

A fisherman with pole inside a circle representing Google Scholar, which is inside a circle representing all of google. And the caption "Fishing in a smaller pond"What are these search engines searching? 

Very simply put, these two engines are created by computer programs that send out robots that scrape information from websites that allow them to collect information.  The robots bring the information back to Google and dump this information into a central repository. 

Google Scholar differs from Google, because the robots only scrape and report information from “scholarly sites” such as academic institutions, scholarly associations, and publishers.   Thus, creating a different and smaller pool of information.

Let’s go ahead and do a quick search in   and see how this plays out.

Video: Moving from Google to Google Scholar. This video simply demonstrates how Google moves you seamlessly into a smaller pool of information called Google Scholar.

EL Lesson 8: Moving from Google to Google Scholar Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Why is it important for you to understand how Google and Google Scholar are created?

  • Google can only scrape information from websites that allow it access
  • Information is organized by an automated computer algorithm which significantly affect the types of searches you can do and the results you get.
  • They are only one of many tools at your disposal 

Video: Connecting Google Scholar to your Library Account: A Tangent.   You may notice when you click on a title in your results list that the site may ask you to pay to access this information. As a member of Penn State, you should never pay for a resource using Google Scholar. The following video shows you how to select and save your settings in your browser.  

Go ahead and open up  and follow along.

EL Lesson 8: Connecting Google Scholar to your Library Account Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Library Databases

What is a library database?

The Library uses the term ‘database’ to describe a searchable online resource. Usually, the Library pays for access, however, some databases are free to use.

Why would you want to search a library database?

  • Comprehensiveness: many library databases do not allow Google or other search engines to scrape information off of their site.  In sum, this would be fiscal suicide.  You should simply see Google as one place among many to search.
  • Efficiency: the smaller more focused universe of information allows the searcher to focus their search in a core set of publications of a particular discipline or a specific format of information.
  • Value-added connections: databases provide more ways through tagging for a searcher to make connections between information to enhance their searching techniques.  

Start Here (Scholarly Library Databases)

THE BIG FIVE

It is impossible to list all of the potentially relevant library databases for the interdisciplinary topics covered in an applied demography program.  However, you should be aware of these five databases as you work through your program.  The following set of videos will discuss some searching strategies for finding scholarly articles for your Demographic Reports.    

Video: Using library databases to find scholarly literature.  This video will demonstrate how to find scholarly articles in the library database Sociological Abstracts by showing you how to:

  • Limit and expand your search using facets to find scholarly literature
  • Understand the difference between searching anywhere versus field searching
  • Discuss how you can retrieve the relevant articles.
  • Show you what information you need to write a proper citation

EL Lesson 8: Using Sociological Abstracts for Finding Scholarly Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Video: Using the thesaurus feature in a library database to refine your search.  This video will demonstrate how to use a thesauri in a library database to refine your search by showing you how to:

  • How to access and use the thesaurus in your search
  • See relationships between tags: narrower, broader, related
  • Understand what it means to explode a tag

EL Lesson 8: Using the Thesaurus Feature in a Library Database Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Video: Using the thesaurus (MESH) in PUBMED to refine your search.  This video will demonstrate how to use a thesauri in a library database to refine your search by showing you how to:

  • How to access and use the thesaurus (MESH) in your search
  • See relationships between tags: narrower, broader, related
  • Understand what it means to explode a tag

EL Lesson 8: Using the PubMed Database Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)

Finding by Citedness

Look at the References!

If you discover a relevant scholarly article on topic it is essential to take a look at the references.  Often this will lead you to other important articles that can potentially be of equal or more importance that then the article in-hand.

Why is that?  Scholarly articles have a built in process called the literature review.  Literature reviews provide you with a summary of research on the topic and the context for a particular author(s) own research.  

Find who Cites our Author(s) Article  

Below is an example of a citation map from the Social Science Citation Index of demographers Jennifer Van Hook and Jennifer Glick's 2007 article "Immigration and living arrangements: Moving beyond economic need versus acculturation" in the journal Demography 44(2): 225-249.  It visually shows you the publications that were cited in the article as well as 43 other publication that cited them.  

So how do we find this future literature?  

Most database have some type of limited "cited by" feature.  However, the most important database that scholars use for this type of search are Web of Science and its suite of citation indexes.   

Finding other Library Databases

It is impossible to list all of the potentially relevant databases for many of the interdisciplinary topics covered in an applied demography program.  Below are two suggestions:  

Use the Library Subject Guides

A simple way is to explore other relevant library subject guides that have been created by disciplinary experts.   

Video: Using a mult-subject library databases to identify library subject databases.  This video will use a technique using the multi-disciplinary subject indexes Academic Search Complete and Proquest Multiple Databases to identify other relevant subject indexes not listed in the Applied Demography Guide.

Both of these publishers provide access to a suite of over 80 disciplinary subject indexes as well as a number of collection databases listed in the University Libraries databases.

EL Lesson 8: Library Search Multi-Subject Database Video Transcript (Links to an external site.)