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Social Sciences: Social Sciences - Main Page


Books in the Library

The Neil Hellman Library follows the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme whereby knowledge (subjects, disciplines) are organized numerically from 001 to 999. The field of Social Sciences (the 300s) is broken down as follows:

300  Sociology & anthropology

310  Collections of general statistics

320  Political science

330  Economics

340  Law

350  Public administration & military science

360  Social problems & services; associations

370  Education 

380  Commerce, communications & transportation

390  Customs, etiquette & folklore      

Each of the above is further divided by subtopic.

 For searching specific social science subjects use the terms found in the Library of Congess Subject Authority Headings database. Copy-and-paste the most specific term found into the NHL catalog or other appropriate Db.

If any assistance is required, please contact the Reference Desk (ph.:  518.454.5181; txt.:  518-336-5277; e-mail:; twt.:  @NHLrefdesk).

Electronic Reference Books

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Primary vs. Secondary Sources

In the social sciences, a “primary source” is original research that reports and interprets data collected by the author(s). These are often referred to as “empirical studies.”

A “secondary source” reports on the work of others, for example literature reviews and meta-analyses. Articles in newspapers like the New York Times and magazines like Scientific American are examples of secondary sources.

How to Tell a Scholarly Journal from a Magazine

Scholarly, professional journals publish articles that have gone through peer review. That is, several experts carefully critique the content of a peer-reviewed article before the editor approves it for publication.


Serials are publications produced in a series under one title.

Periodicals are serials published on a regular schedule (e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)

Journals are periodicals sold primarily for professional use. Journals are often described as "scholarly", "peer-reviewed”, or "professional."

Magazines are periodicals sold primarily for personal (not professional) use.

Evaluating Internet Resources

Evaluating the quality of information on the internet is necessary because freely available web sites almost never go through the peer review, editing, cataloging, indexing, and selection processes done to traditional journals and books. Evaluate the quality of information you find on the internet by these minimum criteria:

Authority: It should be clear who is sponsoring the site, and verifiable information about the sponsor should be provided. 

Accuracy:  Expect few, if any, grammatical or spelling errors.  Sources of information should be clearly identified. Verify factual information by checking it against other sources of information.  If the information in the web page contradicts information in reputable sources, the author should  say so, and explain why.

 Objectivity:  Look for a statement of the sponsor’s point of view, and be sensitive to any expressions of bias.  Ask yourself, "What is the author’s motivation for publishing this?" Be sure to recognize and acknowledge the author's point of view.  If there is advertising on the web site, it should be separate from the information content.

Currency  The site should indicate when it was most recently updated, and the update should be reasonable for the type of information being provided.

Coverage The site should thoroughly cover its topic, within the limits the authors set for themselves.  Coverage can be narrow or broad--the important thing is that the site does not claim to provide more information than it does, or claim to be authoritative when it is not.