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CSA Sociological Abstracts Database Guide


Table of Contents

  • 10 Reasons to Use CSA Sociological Abstracts
  • What Is Sociological Abstracts?
  • Supplemental Complimentary Databases
  • Searchable Field Codes
  • Publication Types
  • Language
  • Cited References
  • Selection Policy
  • Boolean Operators and Other Search Tools
  • Ready, Set, Search! Using the CSA Illumina Platform to Search Sociological Abstracts
  • Value Added Features
  • The Research Process

    CSA Sociological Abstracts

    10 Reasons to Use CSA Sociological Abstracts

    1. Access to over 636,000 records
    2. Backfile coverage dating to 1963
    3. Cited Reference Linking
    4. Advance searching capability of 26 indexed fields
    5. Searching via Browsable Indexes
    6. Thesaurus Searching capability
    7. Ability to cross- search with other CSA Illumina databases using an automatic de-duping feature
    8. Lateral searching through Authors and Descriptors
    9. Provoked searches of the Recent References and Web Resources Related to the Social Sciences and Humanities databases
    10. Easy citation formatting via QuikBib

    What Is Sociological Abstracts and Why Should I Use It?

    The CSA Sociological Abstracts database offers access to the international literature in sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. The database provides abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from over 1,809 serial publications, and also provides abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertations, and conference papers. The database backfile dates to 1963; records added since 1973 contain in-depth and non-evaluative abstracts of journal articles.

    Many records from key journals in sociology, added to the database since 2002, also include the references cited in the bibliography of the source article. Each individual reference may also have links to an abstract and/or to other papers that cite that reference; these links increase the possibility of finding more potentially relevant articles.

    The print version of Sociological Abstracts was founded in 1952 and was purchased by Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) in 1998. This database is the backbone of the CSA Social Science Collection and is available through the CSA Illumina platform, in print, and in CD-ROM format. CSA updates the database on a monthly basis to include the most up-to-date information.

    Subject coverage includes:

    • Culture and social structure
    • Economic development
    • Environmental interactions
    • Family and socialization
    • Health, medicine, and law
    • History and theory of sociology
    • Sociology of political systems, politics, and power
    • Religion and science
    • Studies in crime and violence
    • Substance abuse and addiction
    • Welfare services
    • Women's studies

    For a complete list of subject coverage, click here.

    Supplemental Complimentary Databases

    When you search the CSA Illumina social science databases, including Sociological Abstracts, two supplementary database are searched simultaneously: Recent References Related to the Social Sciences/Humanities and Web Resources Related to the Social Sciences/Humanities. Access to these databases are included with a subscription to Sociological Abstracts on CSA Illumina.

    Recent References Related to the Social Sciences/Humanities
    This service supplements CSA Illumina by providing daily updates of citations from over 110 journals in the social sciences. Citations in this database include searchable fields for article title, author name, and journal title. If the search produces any matches to your search, you will see the choice for 'Recent References Related to the Social Sciences/Humanities.' Citations identified include those not yet indexed in the CSA Illumina database(s) being searched.

    Web Resources Related to the Social Sciences/Humanities
    This database is a collection of over 65,000 high-quality web sites relevant to the social sciences, which are selected and indexed by our editors. Sites indexed include secondary sources providing specific, technical information of interest to a college-level audience, from respected, nonbiased sources such as educational institutions, government agencies, and scientific organizations. Also indexed are sites representing primary sources of interest to social science researchers.

    URLs are reviewed on a monthly basis, averaging a phenomenal rate of less than 2% deadlinks.

    Table of Searchable Fields and Codes Available through Sociological Abstracts

    Field Name


    Search Examples




    Original Title


    ot= Les 50 ans de Social Compass



    au=bentley, margaret

    au=(bentley, margaret)

    au=bentley, m

    Author Affiliation


    af=(Johns Hopkins)

    Other Contributors


    oc=seaton, p

    Email Address




    so=(Contemporary Sociology and 2003)

    so=(Social Science and Medicine and 1992 and 35(11))

    Journal Name


    jn=Quaderni di sociologia

    Resource Locator














    nt= translated by d. mahoney



    pb=( Umea U)







    Publication Year



    Publication Type




    Country of Publication


    cp= France



    de=family structure




    LC Control Number





    cl=0394 social psychology; life cycle & biography




    Accession Number





    re=(gender and society)

    Publication Types

    Sociological Abstracts indexes eight publication types that are searchable on CSA Illumina by using the field code PT= . These document types include journal article (aja), book (bka), book chapter (bca), conference paper (acp), dissertation (dis), book review (brv), film review (frv), and software review (swr). These publication types are searchable by their name or the three letter code associated with each type.

    The publication types (PT=) represented in Sociological Abstracts by percentage:
    Journal Article: 61.7%
    Book, Film, and Software Review: 26.3%
    Conference Paper: 6.6%
    Dissertation: 3.1%
    Book: 1.2%
    Book Chapter: 1.2%

    A Special Note on Conference Papers
    Copies of papers presented at participating sociological conferences can be ordered from CSA Sociological Abstracts. Ordering information for available papers appears in the Note (NT) field of abstract of conference paper records in the Sociological Abstracts database. If this information does not appear in the record, then the paper is not available from CSA Sociological Abstracts; in such cases, contact the author directly using the institutional affiliation information provided. Click here for order information.


    The following languages are indexed in Sociological Abstracts:

    • Afrikaans
    • Italian
    • Arabic
    • Japanese
    • Bulgarian
    • Korean
    • Chinese
    • Multilingual
    • Czech
    • Norwegian
    • Danish
    • Polish
    • Dutch
    • Portuguese
    • English
    • Romanian
    • Esperanto
    • Russian
    • Finnish
    • Serbo-Croatian with Cyrillic alphabet
    • Flemish
    • Serbo-Croatian with Roman alphabet
    • French
    • Slovak
    • German
    • Slovene
    • Greek
    • Spanish
    • Hebrew
    • Swedish
    • Hungarian
    • Turkish

    Cited References

    The unique cited reference linking in CSA Illumina allows you to see how many times an author/paper has been cited, who is working on a similar subject, and also find other documents related to a topic.

    When available, there will be a link from a cited reference to its original abstract and other articles that have cited the same reference.

    As an added benefit, linking on the Abstract link in a cited reference will take you to original abstracts from any of the following databases whether you subscribe to them or not:

    ASSIA: Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts
    BHI: British Humanities Index
    Communication Abstracts
    Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
    Criminology: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
    Politics and International Relations: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
    Social Services Abstracts
    Sociology: A SAGE Full-Text Collection
    Worldwide Political Science Abstracts

    Selection Policy

    The selection policy of Sociological Abstracts classifies the journals as Core, Priority, and Selective.

    • CORE journals are published by sociological associations, groups, faculties, and institutions, and/or have the term “sociology” in their titles. All substantive articles appearing in these journals are abstracted and indexed, and citations are provided to the book reviews published therein.
    • PRIORITY journals are drawn from related social sciences, eg, anthropology, communication, education, medicine, political science, that consistently address topics of sociological relevance, and in which sociologists regularly publish. More than 50% of the substantive articles appearing in these journals are selected for coverage.
    • SELECTIVE sources include journals from related social sciences that occasionally publish works by sociologists. Less than 50% of the substantive articles appearing in these journals are covered.

    The international distribution of the journals indexed in Sociological Abstracts is as follows:

    • North America 60%
    • South and Central America 1%
    • Western Europe 31%
    • Eastern Europe 4%
    • Australia and New Zealand 1%
    • Asia, Middle East, Africa 3%

    For a complete list of the journals indexed in the database, access the Serial Source List here.

    The indexing practices of Sociological Abstracts provide value-added features that include professional document selection, extensive quality control, and three levels of indexing, including Classification Codes (CL=), Descriptors (DE=), and Identifiers (ID=).

    • Classification Codes indicate a broad subject area and represent the major focus of the article. Sociological Abstracts identifies 29 broad areas of sociology and includes 95 specific sub-headings. The classification codes can be searched by numeric code or word.
    • Descriptors are assigned using the Thesaurus of Sociological Indexing Terms. Currently in its sixth edition, the Thesaurus was implemented in 1986 after two years of research and development.
    • The Identifiers field has been used since 1998 to provide vocabulary that is not accessible through the controlled terminology of the Thesaurus. The natural language terms found in the Identifiers field reflects new or developing concepts in sociology that are not yet added to the Thesaurus. Prior to 1998, the Identifiers field was used to provide an "abstract of the abstract," and listed the dependent and indepedent variables under investigation, population, metholodogy, and geographic location of study

    Boolean Operators and Other Search Tools Supported by CSA Illumina

    Boolean operators help define the relationships between words or groups of words.

    AND Use to narrow a search and retrieve records containing all of the words it separates
    OR Use to broaden a search and retrieve records containing any of the words it separates
    NOT Use to narrow a search and retrieve records that do not contain the term following it
    ( ) Use to group words or phrases when combining Boolean phrases and to show the order in which relationships should be considered
    Proximity operators identify the number of words to come between the search terms.
    WITHIN "X" Use to narrow a search by specifying a proximity relationship of fewer than “X” words between search terms.
    NEAR Use to narrow a search by specifying a proximity relationship of fewer than 10 words between search terms
    Special symbols can expand the scope of your search.
    * Truncate using the wild card symbol. This expands a search term to include forms of a root word, e.g. delinquen* retrieves delinquency, delinquent, etc.
    * Find an unlimited number of characters within a word, e.g. behavi*r retrieves behavior and behaviour
    ? Find alternative spellings. The ? represents any single character; ?? represents two characters and so on. Use within or at the end of a word, e.g. wom?n finds woman as well as women
    Note: Search queries containing several operators search in the following order: ( ), NEAR, NOT, AND, OR

    Ready, Set, Search! Using CSA Illumina to Search Sociological Abstracts

    Now that you have an understanding of what Sociological Abstracts is and how the searchable field codes and search tools function, you are now ready to search the database through CSA Illumina.

    Clicking on 'Help & Support' at any time will direct you to a context-specific Help page.

    On CSA Illumina, search strategies can be applied using one of three approaches.

    • Quick Search restricts your search to anywhere (AY=). An anywhere search searches across all of the available fields in a record. Multiple words entered into the search field, will be treated as a phrase.
    • Advanced Search gives you the advantage of being able to select any of the 26 field codes from a pull-down menu. The separate search boxes are formatted to include the Boolean Operators to help guide you in formatting your search.
    • Command Search or Professional Search may be preferred by advanced users who are comfortable with entering search strategies without aid of a template.

    Search strategies may be refined by using the following limits (available in 'Advanced Search' and 'Command Search'):

    • Latest Update limits your results to include only the most recent records that were added to the database. Sociological Abstracts is updated on a monthly basis.
    • Journal Articles Only limits the search to only include the publication type of journal articles (aja).
    • English Only limits retrieval to only records that are available in English. Sociological Abstracts indexes source publications in over 32 languages; for non-English documents, titles are translated into English, and, whenever possible, an abstract is provided in English.
    • By Publication Date limits retrieval to a specific date range.

    The sorting features give you the opportunity to order your results based on the publication date or relevancy.

    • Most Recent First displays the records in order beginning with the most recent.
    • Relevancy Rank displays records in order based on relevancy. Relevancy is determined through a rating system that weighs the records based on the number of times the term(s) appear in the record and where they appear.

    Select how to display records from the 'Show' pull-down menu. Options include displaying the short format, full format, full format-omit references, and custom format.

    The 'de-dupe' feature automatically removes any duplicate records that appear in your set of results, which is especially useful when you are cross-database searching. You can also use the 'Show Duplicates' feature to display the duplicates.

    When viewing records on CSA Illumina, both the author and descriptors are hot linked. Clicking on the hot-link will search the database for each occurrence of the selected author or descriptor.

    Printing, saving, and e-mailing records can be done by using the 'Save, Print, E-mail' function. This function also includes an exporting feature to a number of bibliographic managers such as RefWorks and the use of our output format editor, QuikBib.

    Value-Added Features

    CSA Illumina offers a number of value-added features to help with the search process and maximize the relevancy of search results.

    Sociological Abstracts may be searched directly from the Thesaurus, using the Thesaurus Search Feature.

    • The Alphabetical display presents an alphabetical list of thesaurus terms.
    • The Thesaurus displays shows a terms and its hierarchy, including its Scope and History Notes, its unique alphanumeric code, any Use For (UF) or Use directions, and its hierarchical relationships with Broader Terms (BT), Narrower Terms (NT), and Related Terms (RT).
    • The Rotated Index displays all thesaurus terms or phrases that contain the search term used.

    Marked terms can be searched from any of the displays, applying AND, OR, or Explode operators, and setting limits as defined above.

    Searches may also be activated through three browsable indexes: Author, Journal Name, and Publication Type.

    The Research Process

    I) How to begin the electronic research process

    A. Determine your goals:

    1. State your research question:

    "What effect does gender have on the digital divide?"

    2. Set parameters for your search (ie, technology type, gender, geographical location)

    "What types of technology are going to be analyzed (computer use, Internet use, telecommunications, etc)?"
    "Are men more likely than women to use this technology?"
    "Which geographic locations are most likely to have/not have access to this technology? (ie, developing countries vs industrialized countries)"

    B. Identify general concepts:

    1. Which general terms relate to your search?

    "Internet use"; "developing countries"; "gender"; "access to technology"

    C. Choose the appropriate database

    1. Are there specific journals that specialize in the sociology of technology?

    Gender, Technology and Development
    Technology in Society
    Technologies de l' information et societe
    Technology Studies

    2. Are any of these journals covered in CSA Sociological Abstracts/SAGE full-text collection database(s)? What other resources are available on the Web Resources Database?

    II) Build your search strategy:

    A. Quick search:

    1. Enter phrase or multiple search terms separated by Boolean operators AND to link terms, OR to link similar words or synonyms:

    "sex differences and access to Internet in developing countries" or enter "sex differences AND access AND Internet OR information technology AND developing countries" in Quick Search box

    Note: Consult thesauri for proper use of terms. For example, use "computers" instead of "computer use"; use "sexual inequality" instead of "gender inequality"; or "sex differences" instead of "gender differences"

    B. Advanced Search:

    The drop boxes allow you to limit the search by any of the searchable field codes including Keyword (KW), Author (AU), Journal Name (JN), Descriptor (DE), Abstract (AU), or Title (TI). You can also limit your search to specific publication years and choose the record format. The descriptor field (DE) and abstract field (AB) will allow you to narrow down your search even more by locating specific descriptors and key words in the abstract.

    Example: If I wanted to limit my search to India...

    KW = (sex differences or (sexual inequality)) and KW = (Internet or (information technology)) and DE = ( India or (developing countries))

    III) Analyzing Results

    A. Good results:

    If results are satisfactory, then Save, Print, E-mail citations or download them to a bibliographic manager such as RefWorks or QuikBib.

    B. If results are not on target:

    1. Check spelling of search terms and use thesauri or browsable indexes to drop unnecessary or misleading terms.

    2. Increase precision: for example, if you want to emphasize the gender gap in access to Internet then you may have to search access as a descriptor (DE) or word in the title of the article instead of by keyword (KW). Also, sexual inequality may be more specific than just sex differences

    3. You may need to rethink whether the database you selected is appropriate for your search.

    C. Too few/too many results:

    1. Increase retrieval by using fewer ANDs and more ORs

    Example: KW=Internet OR information technology OR computers


    2. Increase precision by using additional ANDs and fewer ORs (NOT can be used to exclude some terms)

    Example: KW=Internet AND information technology AND computers NOT telecommunications