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This guide offers starting points for your research. All e-resources are available to you online when you're signed in to Brown's network.


How do you ask useful, impactful, critical questions in sociological research? Why do questions, sources, and searches matter so much?

Here are some steps to guide you in your journey:

  1. Adopt a critical approach to research
  2. Develop your research question
  3. Review background guides and resources to refine your question
  4. Use keywords to develop a search strategy

Adopt a critical approach to research

Note: This section is still in-progress and based on the work of our talented colleague, Dr. Leo Lovemore!

The Brown University Library facilitates and supports critical research practices that ask how bias, power, and uneven access to resources are at work in the labor of scholarship. 

Consider reflecting on the following set of questions and resources to develop and integrate critical perspectives into your research plans:

  • What makes a source authoritative in economics? Who decides?
  • How do dynamics of power shape citational practice?
  • What does it mean to decolonize knowledge?
  • Is sociology an objective deicipline? What counts as evidence?
  • How is bias embedded in knowledge-making?

Key resources for learning more:

Review background guides and resources to refine your question

How do researchers in your discipline approach the topic you'd like to investigate? Before diving into case studies, working papers, and other specific evidence, it may help you to take a step back and look at what we call background resources. These include:

  • Handbooks and subject encyclopedias
  • Annual reviews
  • Books with an overview/pedagogical approach
  • and more!

Below are some specific places to start with sociology research:

Use keywords to develop a search strategy

Did you know that you can vastly improve your ability to find key relevant sources by employing a keyword strategy? Keywords are the specific words you identify as useful for investigating your research question, and the words you often put into database searches. But there's more nuance in finding, refining, and experimenting with keywords than you may expect.

Below is a quick video tutorial (6 minutes) about search strategy, and a link to our full guide for learning more.