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SOC106 - Introduction to Sociology - Smith: Problem Definition

Problem Definition in Sociological Research

at the end of the tunnel

Photo: By Sam from Canberra, Australia (At The End Of The Tunnel) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

1) Specify your topic by indicating what you want to learn about it.  In other words, narrow down the topic by defining a thesis or problem statement that has an implicit or explicit question

  1. List questions that you would like answered to help narrow your topic

  2. Choose a question that is focused, interesting, and not too broad to guide your research

2) Provide a brief background and definition of the topic.

3) Indicate why it is important for you and for society to expand on the knowledge of that subject or topic

3) Provide any other preliminary facts to support your arguments about the importance of conducting research on the chosen topic.

Thesis Statements

A thesis statement is a map to your paper. After exploring your topic you will decide to focus on a particular aspect of the subject area. This focus, or main idea will guide your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should answer your research question, and help you organize your research and paper. Use the links below to find more help on writing thesis statements.

Finding Sources about Sociology Topics

Try our new Snap Search to look for resources on your topic. Here, you will find books, academic journals, videos, newspapers, magazines, and more from most of our databases. In some cases, you might need to search individual databases but most often this will give you what you need.

snap search

Use the EDS limiters to narrow down your results by selecting source types, subjects, date ranges and more. These limiters will be located on the left side of your results.

You can also use the Advanced Search to refine your search results. 

eds advance search

The TX All Text option will give you more results by searching the full-text of the document for your search terms. Use caution with the other options in this list, they may not do what you think they should. For most searches, it's best not to select an option. Use the TX option when you don't get any or many results.

Begin your search using some of our book sources. These databases contain articles and chapters from books that cover literary topics.

Continue your research using our article databases where you can find more in-depth and specific information on titles, authors, and themes.

Also, try some of our general databases for more information on your topic. These databases contain some different sources than those listed above that can be useful. Most of these have an option to narrow your results to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles.

When searching for sources on your topic, it's helpful to identify your main concepts and keep a list of keywords and phrases that represent them. These search terms are what you will use to search for information in a database. Remember, the better your search terms, the better the results. Use a thesaurus to find alternative terms for your concepts and, most importantly, use terms from the sources you find to do other searches.

You can use something like the table below to keep track of your keywords and phrases.

concept table

​​​Access to many of the database links on this guide requires NSCC authentication - users must sign in with their NSCC Pipeline username & password

If you want to place any library materials on hold, request a book from another library, or check out any physical library materials out you will need to have your NSCC ID card.

Stop by the Student Life Office in Danvers (DB 132) or Lynn (LW 171) with a current class schedule and a picture ID to get an NSCC ID.

2. C. Your Research Question and Thesis Statement