Skip to Main Content

Sociology Research

Building Background

As you begin to research a new topic, explore general background information first.

You will gain:

  • ideas for how to broaden or narrow your focus.
  • specific terms to use in your investigation.
  • names of important people for that topic.
  • timelines of related dates and events.
  • suggested sources to investigate further.

Wikipedia: a pre-research source

Wikipedia logo

Wikipedia is GREAT! And contrary to what folks may have told you, the review process is more thorough than much that is published on the open web. The reason I tell students not to cite Wikipedia in their scholarly writing is not that it's flawed, but because it is an overview or reference source and that is not the need those types of sources fulfill. Encyclopedias like Wikipedia are excellent for doing pre-research. Use them correctly, and they can be a fantastic tool in your toolkit.

The part of a Wikipedia article that would help you the most are the reference and/or the further reading sections. There you will find citations that are good starting point for pre-research: gathering potential search terms, names of authors or scholars who are knowledgeable about the topic, and titles of potential scholarly journals to search.

General Overview Sources

Contemporary Issues Series

Contemporary World Issues is a series of books, where each book covers a "hot topic" in the recent news. The contents include background, problems and solutions, worldwide perspective, chronology, biographical sketches, documents, related organizations, and resources.

To search only the books in this series type "a reference handbook" AND "ABC-CLIO" into the advanced library catalog search and limit your search to "Available in Library"

Some examples include:

Print Sociology References

There are many overview sources available in the library's collection that cover issues like crime & deviance, popular culture, demography, education, family, gender, health, organizations, race, religion, social problems, urbanization, and much more. Just search the library's online catalog.

To locate all of the reference collection holdings at Vogel limit your keyword search in OneSearch to "Reference Entries." 

Some examples include:

Vogel Library, Wartburg College   |   100 Wartburg Blvd, Waverly, IA, 50677 |   Phone: 319-352-8500   | Email: