Sociology: UO HUMS 2043: Social Enquiry Methods

Assignment Help

Finding academic sources for your literature review

What you need to do?

This page will help you identify appropriate search concepts, build a search using boolean operators and find academic sources for your literature review. 

Remember, check the assessment details in your course website.

Plan your search

Planning your search will help you find information more efficiently.

Start by:

  •  Identifying the main concepts in your research question.
  •  Thinking of any alternative concepts or synonyms for each concept.
  •  Connecting your concepts together using boolean (AND and OR) to form a search.

A table or mindmap can be a useful strategy for doing this. 

For example, if you are researching 'youth homelessness in Australia', you could do:

Main concepts

Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 3

Synonyms (similar concepts)

young people
young person
teenager, teen
adolescent, adolescence

unstable housing
unstable accommodation


Tip: As you search, you may come across more concepts or synonyms you can incorporate.  Don't be afraid to change or modify your search as you go.

Understanding boolean operators

Boolean operators (connectors) are what you use to connect your search concepts together to form different search strategies.

The below table summarises how they work:

Boolean operator What it does Example
  • Narrows your search.
  • The more concepts you connect with AND the more focused your search will become.
homelessness AND Australia
  • Broadens your search.
  • Includes results that use different terminology.
youth OR teenager OR adolescent
  • Removes concepts from a search.
  • Not recommended as you can potentially eliminate relevant results.
youth NOT adult

Watch or read the below to see how to put together a search using boolean operators:

Using boolean operators

Test your knowledge of boolean operators with the activity below.

Academic sources

For this assessment you will need to use academic sources. Academic or scholarly is an umbrella term for several different kinds of authoritative and credible sources including peer reviewed articles, some books and resources known as ‘grey literature’.

Watch or read to learn more:

Where to search

You can start by searching the Library Catalogue or Google Scholar.

However, it is recommended you also search library databases. Library databases are search tools that help you find articles, book chapters, papers and more. Try one of the following:

Watch this short video to learn more:

Start your search

Navigate to Google Scholar

You can also try searching Google Scholar.
Remember to access it through the Library Homepage to see UniSA full text.

Here is a search example using the keywords we brainstormed earlier:

  • Start by adding a few different concepts:

  • Broaden your search by adding synonyms (similar concepts) using the connector OR:

  • To focus your search add another concept:

  • You can limit your results by date by using the Custom range. This may help you find recent information.

Tip: You may find it easier to use the Advanced Search option. For help see:

Search in databases

Navigate to ProQuest Social Science Premium Collection
Here is a example search in ProQuest Social Science Premium Collection.

  1. Select the Advanced Search option (top).
  2. Add a different concept (keyword) in each new line using the connector AND.
  3. Add any synonyms (similar concepts) to each line using the connector OR. This will broaden your search.

  4. Focus your search further by using the options to the left of the results (e.g. peer reviewed and publication date).


  • Use our Save time searching databases cheat sheet for more helpful hints. 
  • Use Find It button to locate the full text. Find it is a service that helps locate the full text of an article and finds it within UniSA Library Collection. 

Navigate to Jstor database
Here is a example search in JSTOR

  1. Using the Advanced Search option (below search box).
  2. Add different concepts (keywords) on each new line using the connector AND.
  3. Add synonyms (similar concepts) to each line using the connector OR. This will broaden your search.
  4. If you want to add another concept to your search, such as the risk factors of homelessness, just select Add a search box.
  5. Focus your search further by using the options on the left of the results.


Navigate to Scopus database
Here is a example search in Scopus.

  1. Add more search fields by using the plus sign + (right of search box).
  2. Add a difference concept (keyword) to each line using the connector AND.


  3. Add synonyms (similar concepts) to each line using the connector OR.

  4. Remember if you want to add more concepts select the plus sign to add another field.
  5. Focus your search further by using the options on the left. Click Limit to or Exclude.

Tip: Use our How to save time searching databases cheat sheet for more help.

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