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Racer Library Tutorial - SOC 359 and POL 359

Finding Articles with EBSCO Databases (SocINDEX, Academic Search Complete, Military and Government Collection, etc.)

There are several databases that are useful for finding scholarly articles in the field of sociology and political science. There are those that are subject-specific, such as SocINDEX, Race Relations Abstracts, Urban Studies Abstracts, etc. As sociology is often interdisciplinary by nature, various multidisciplinary databases can be useful, such as Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 

This tutorial will focus on SocINDEX, the world's most comprehensive sociology research database. You can reach the database by going to our Database A-Z list. or under the articles tab on the Sociology Research Guide.

Once you log in to the database using your Murray State credentials, you will be presented with the search screen below. Note that SocINDEX is owned by EBSCO, meaning that the search interface looks the same and shares many similar technical features with a variety of other databases. 


At this point you can begin your search. You will notice various limiters below the search boxes. Although they are useful, it is best to apply limiters on the search results page. Type your search terms into the boxes at the top utilizing Boolean operators discussed earlier in the module. By default, each box is combined using an AND operator. You can use an individual search box to type in synonyms or equivalent terms using the OR operator. EBSCO databases will sometimes suggest alternate terms used in the database as you are typing in a search box. These can be very helpful, but make sure to evaluate or edit any of these terms based on your research needs. 

Let's try an example. Our sample research question is "How do non-profits help out the homeless in urban environments?" First, let's identify the key terms of our research question. We want to find articles that discuss non-profits, the homeless, and urban environments. Just by typing in "non-profit," it shows some alternate terms which we will use. 


I followed the same process for the other terms and clicked the blue search button. 


Let's go through a few things we can see on this page.

  1. The amount of sources retrieved through the search. Our current search only yielded 19 sources. While that is very manageable, we may have to modify our search terms to find additional sources.
  2. The type of source. Most materials in SocINDEX and similar databases will be from academic journals, but sometimes you will find things such as magazines, conference papers, newspapers, and other media. 
  3. Full text access options. The full text of the article can be available via HTML (text appears on the webpage) or as a PDF file (downloadable). For articles only available via HTML, you can always click print and select "save as PDF" as the printer to save your own copy of the article. 
  4. Get it @ MSU. Sometimes a source is not available in a database. By clicking this button you will be shown other databases where the source is accessible, or an option to place an interlibrary loan if the source is unaccessible.
  5. Search limiters. There are many useful options here. For example, if your instructor requires you to use peer reviewed sources, you should click the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" option. You can set a date range, which is useful for limiting your search to recent sources. If you scroll down you can find additional filter options for source types, publication (ex. what journal the article was published in), and language. While it may seem useful, I discourage students from selecting the "Full Text" filter. This is because it will filter out any sources with the yellow "Get it @ MSU" button, which are potentially still accessible.

Occasionally you will see a clickable option for "Times Cited in this Database" in an article's listing. This will show you other articles in the database that have cited the initial article (which means they probably wrote about a similar topic and/or expanded on that research). You can also do this with Google Scholar, which will be shown later in the module. 



Below is an example record page for a source found via an EBSCO database, such as Academic Search Complete or SocINDEX.


  1. Access options; if the full text is available it will provide a link to HTML or a PDF download
  2. Database-provided subject terms; these are subject terms applied to the source by the database 
  3. People; not all databases provide this but these are subject terms relating to specific people
  4. The abstract provides an overview of what the source examines
  5. DOI; a digital object identifier for the article which can be used to search for and identify the specific article. You will also need to include this when citing the electronic version of an article
  6. Citation Generator; these sometimes create an inaccurate citation. If you use a citation generated by this make sure to check that the formatting is correct, and alter any oddities such as words in all-caps or inconsistent font colors. 
  7. Permalink generator; you must generate a permalink (sometimes called a "stable link") if you want to navigate back to the page. If you copy the link from the URL bar the link will not work when you send it to someone else

Subject Searching

You can also perform a search using database/author-supplied subject terms and keywords. Take a look a the following item record page:

Item record page with subject terms circled

Notice how the terms are blue, indicating a link. If you click the term, it will take you to search page with a subject-search pre-filled.

Subject search for "Homelessness" in the SocINDEX database The "DE" represents the word descriptor, which is an alternate term for subject term or keyword. Alternatively, you can click click "Select a Field" and select "SU Subject Terms." Like our previous keyword searches, you can add subject terms to multiple boxes, connecting them with the AND operator. 

To view a list of subjects terms loaded in the database, click "Subject Terms" at the top of the page.

Subject terms in SocINDEX

Note: Some EBSCO databases may use a different heading such as "Index."