Sociology assignment (Fall 2012)

Do you need help finding information for your contemporary topic assignment?

Always make sure you understand the terminology when beginning a new assignment. What is meant by the term “mainstream media”? Use a reference source (dictionary or encyclopedia) for this type of quick information.

I searched Penn State’s online library catalog, The CAT, combining the subject “media” with the subject “dictionaries” and found the Dictionary of Media and Communications. The following definition is from this source: “mainstream media . . . dominant, powerful media organizations, such as the major newspapers and television networks.”

EXAMPLES of mainstream media:
New York Times – available in the Access World News database
Washington Post – also available in Access World News
Wall Street Journal – available through the ABI/INFORM Complete database

You can also search the Academic Search Complete database and limit your results to newspapers and magazines.

Many instructors require students to use scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles for college research papers. However, students often don’t know where to find these articles and aren’t even sure what a scholarly article looks like.

The chart from the Periodicals and Journals Research Guide outlines the differences between scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular magazines.

The more you use these types of sources, the easier it becomes to recognize the common structure they share. Take a look “Components of a Research Article” for an overview of this structure.

  • Try browsing through electronic journals by clicking on one of the Social Sciences categories and selecting one of the journals:

  • Try using the following databases to search for academic, scholarly journals in the field of sociology:

Sociological Abstracts
This database will be a good starting point. Keep in mind that an abstract is a brief summary of the article, not the full text.
You will need to use the Get It! link to access the full text of the article.

Business Source Premier
This database includes journals such as
American Journal of Economics and Sociology
American Sociological Review
Annual Review of Sociology
Sociological Research


Sage Journals Online
This database provides full-text access to all Sage journals, including many sociology journals.

LionSearch is a new interface to the combined resources provided by the Penn State University Libraries.


When helping students with this assignment in the Fall of 2011, Hurricane Irene was in the news, so I decided to look at some articles in the mainstream media about it and then find a sociological journal article about disaster preparedness.

There was an interesting article “How to Measure a Storm’s Fury One Breakfast at a Time” in the 9/1/11 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

I also looked at the articles “Budget Cuts Could Limit Hurricane Forecasting” from MSNBC and “What Price Life?” from The New York Times (8/30/11).

I searched Business Source Premier for a sociological journal article using the search strategy shown below:

Since I wanted to retrieve results with any form of the word “sociology” in the journal title, I used the truncation symbol *. (Note: not all databases use the same truncation symbol. Check the “help” section in the database to find this information).

I also limited my search to scholarly, peer-reviewed journals and found the article “The Economics and Ethics of Hurricane Katrina” from the American Journal of Economics & Sociology.