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Identity and Social Justice: Basic Research

Find information using Western Library Resouce about Identity and Social Justice Topics

Database Search Tips and Tricks

Make a listBasic Searching - Library Databases

Begin your research by creating a list of search terms - single words or short phrases - based on your choice of topic. Databases respond best to nouns that identify something specific. Terms like those below a make good starting point for a basic search.

  • racial injustice
  • income inequality
  • refugee crisis
  • housing insecurity
  • food insecurity

When you search, enclose multiple-word terms in parenthesis (domestic violence) so the database searches for articles about "racial injustice" rather than searching the two words "racial" and "injustice"  separately, which will bring back a lot of irrelevant results.

Because different authors use different terms that mean the same thing, you want to create a small list of alternate search terms so you don't miss a good article just because it uses different words than you did. For example:

  • racial injustice --- racial inequity, racial equity, racism
  • food insecurity --- hunger; poverty; food banks; free school lunch
  • income inequality --- income gap; income disparity; wage gap; pay disparity

Use or look at Subjects features in the databases to expand your word lists.


Advanced Searching - Library Databases

Advanced search strategies are useful if you get too many results from a basic search. To reduce or specify the results, try combinations of several words and linking them with AND, OR, NOT. This is known as Boolean searching.

  • income (inequality OR gap) AND families
  • (food insecurity) OR hunger AND (mothers OR fathers) AND children
  • refugees AND (children OR kids NOT goats) AND trauma

Remember, databases respond best to nouns that identify something specific. Words like impact or effect don't identify any one specific thing, and tend to muddy the results you get. It is in reading the articles you come to understand the impact or effect of a specific situation on individual clients, families, or family members.


SearchGet to know your topic by doing some background research. The database, Credo Reference, is an excellent source to learn more about your topic. Use it do nail down some of the basic facts - key people or figures, dates or timelines, events, places, policies, laws, attitudes, historical context, etc.

Begin searching Credo Reference by using the link below.



NOTE: You will be prompted to enter your Western ID to login to a database. 


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