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Introduction to the Collections

The New York Public Library has a wide range of materials available for sociological research, including books, journals, indexes, and databases. The Humanities & Social Sciences Library's General Research Division, accessible in room 315 and the Rose Main Reading Room, is primarily responsible for sociology materials and collects extensively in sociology, social history, and social problems.

These materials have been a priority for NYPL since its early years. Additionally, the library's collections focus on many specific topics studied within sociology, such as child abuse and child welfare, civil rights, homelessness, minorities, and popular culture, among others. Recommended searching skills for locating these materials in CATNYP, the online catalog of The New York Public Library’s four Research Libraries, are listed in the Using the Library’s Catalogs section.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of sociological research, it is important to consult the resources for other fields, such as psychology, anthropology, political science, and statistics. The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is only one of the four Research Libraries of The New York Public Library. Researchers in sociology, depending on their research topic, may need to consult one of the other centers, which are the Science, Industry, and Business Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Library for the Performing Arts. The collections of these other centers are included in CATNYP.

If you need further assistance, visit our reference desk, or e-mail us at

Using the Library’s Catalogs

CATNYP is the online catalog of The New York Public Library’s research collections.  It is easily accessible via the Internet at  For general instructions on using CATNYP, please consult Using the Library's Online Catalog. The following information is specific to the subject of sociology.

CATNYP allows searching by author, title, keyword, and subject. A keyword search is recommended, and the catalog defaults to this option.

The most salient keywords for sociology include the following:

Social Conflict
Social History
Social Problems
Social Sciences
Social Scientists

Works by and about prominent sociologists can be found by searching their names in the author and/or subject fields, entering the last name first:

Durkheim,  Emile
Weber,  Max
Parsons, Talcott

When performing a multiple word search, be sure to use the word "and" between each term:

sociology and crime
sociology and race
anthropology and religion   
sociology and religion
sociology and Durkheim and school

After retrieving the results of a keyword search, the researcher is advised to examine the subject headings listed in the entry. Clicking on the appropriate subject heading will bring up titles specifically linked to that topic.

Although keyword searching is recommended, some researchers may also wish to employ a subject search. A subject search might yield more precise results, but only if the appropriate Library of Congress subject headings are utilized. A list of these subject headings is available at

When visiting the Library, the researcher may wish to consult the Dictionary Catalog, most of whose entries now appear in CATNYP. Please consult a librarian about the appropriate subject and author headings to employ.

Background Research

The items listed below are meant as a starting point for your research, and are by no means comprehensive. General reference works such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and directories offer background information, and quick answers to specific questions. 

Encyclopedias | Dictionaries | Directories | Handbooks & Guides | Bibliographies | General Works


Encyclopedias can be useful for overviews of areas of research, for bibliographies of standard works, and for biographical information.

The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2007), 11 vols. *R-RMRR HM425 .B53 2007 A significant and comprehensive analysis of sociological themes, schools, theorists, concerns, and research. A lexicon in volume one provides a guide to the articles arranged under major concepts or categories.

Encyclopedia of Social History, edited by Peter N. Stearns, (New York: Garland, 1994), *R-RMRR HN28 .E53 1994 Good for the overlap between historical and sociological research. Covers the issues, paradigms, and topics of social history.

Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, edited by Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman, (New York: Macmillan, 1937), Various call numbers (see CATNYP). Seminal work from the formative era of the social science disciplines. Good for historical research and biography of 19th-century figures. The contributors include the major figures in 20th- century social science research.

Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd ed., edited by Edgar F. Borgatta and Marie L. Borgatta, (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000), 5 vols. *R-RMRR HM425 .E5 2000 Fairly recent major encyclopedia; good for contemporary perspectives and research.

International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by David L. Sills, (New York: Macmillan, 1968-79), 19 vols. JFF 92-1819. Complements the earlier Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences and updates the research and perspectives through the 1970s

International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, (Amsterdam; New York: Elsevier, 2001), 26 vols. *R-RMRR H41 .I58 2001 The successor to the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. This new work also provides a comprehensive and advanced approach to disciplines, subjects, issues, schools, and methodologies in the social sciences.

The International Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by Michael Mann, (New York: Continuum, 1984), *R-RMRR HM17 .I53 1984 Selective, one-volume encyclopedia, strong on the relation between sociology and psychology.

The Social Science Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., edited by Adam Kuper and Jessica Kuper, (New York; London: Routledge, 2004), 2 vols. *R-RMRR H41 .S63 2004 A compendium with short entries, covering major social sciences.


Dictionaries are useful for technical vocabulary employed in specific sociological fields, methodologies, and perspectives. Each dictionary has particular strengths and focuses.

The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought, 2nd ed., edited by William Outhwaite and Tom Bottomore, (Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), *R-RMRR H41 .B53 2003 Covers major fields in social sciences: sociology, anthropology, economics, and statistics.

Boudon, Raymond, and François Bourricaud . A Critical Dictionary of Sociology, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), JFE 06-14362 Collection of essays on key concepts and figures in sociological theory by two major French sociologists.

Brooker, Peter, Cultural Theory: A Glossary, (London; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), *R-RMRR HM101 .B775 1999 Dictionary of terms used in cultural studies, with focus on 20th- century French thought and critical theory.

The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology, edited by Bryan S. Turner, (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), *R-RMRR HM425 .C36 2006

Jary, David, and Julia Jary, Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 2nd ed., (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1995), JFD 96-76 A thorough glossary of academic sociology, especially quantitative research and biographical information.

Johnson, Allan G, The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology: A User's Guide to Sociological Language, 2nd ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), *R-RMRR HM425 .J64 2000 Definitions include suggestions for further reading. Contains biographical appendix.

Handbooks and Guides

Handbooks have a practical focus that can include orientation within the current literature, research methodology, and theoretical issues. Most of the guides recommended here provide selective annotated bibliographies of reference materials in sociology and social sciences.

Aby, Stephen H., Sociology: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, 3rd ed., (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2005), *R-RMRR HM585 .A24 2005 Guide to resources in sociology and other related social science fields, with special attention to sub-fields such as criminology, demography, theory, etc.

Annual Review of Sociology, (Palo Alto, Calif.: Annual Reviews Inc, 1975- present) JFK 96-615, or in JSTOR for years 1975-2003 or in Academic Search Premier for years 1990 to 2005 available through NYPL Electronic Resources. Reviews developments and trends in sociology.

Bottomore, T. B., Sociology: A Guide to Problems and Literature, (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987), JLD 87-2371. An outline of the history of sociology, issues, and perspectives, with reading guides to the classic literature.

Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods, edited by Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998), JFE 92-1455. Practically oriented essays on all phases of qualitative and quantitative research.

International Handbook of Contemporary Developments in Sociology, edited by Raj P. Mohan and Arthur S. Wilke, (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1994), JFE 95-4346. International coverage of the history and trends in sociology. Covers both intellectual trends and organizational context.

The International Handbook of Sociology, edited by Stella R. Quah and Arnaud Sales , (London; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000), JFF 01-4260 A guide to perspectives and issues in sociology.

Li, Tze-chung, Social Science Reference Sources: A Practical Guide, 3rd ed., (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000), *R-RMRR H61 .L5 2000 Extensive coverage of the social sciences with focus on databases and web-based resources.

Reader’s Guide to the Social Sciences, edited by Jonathan Michie, (London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001), 2 vols., *R-RMRR H41 .R417 2001 Reviews literature on a wide range of topics and concepts from the social sciences.

The Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods, edited by Michael S. Lewis-Beck et al., (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2004), 3 vols., *R-RMRR H62 .L456 2004 Covers both quantitative and qualitative research approaches with a clear explanation of one thousand methodologies. Volume three is an index of names, organizations, concepts, and methodologies.

The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd ed., edited by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005), *R-RMRR H62 .H2455 2005 Anthology of essays on the methodology and theory of qualitative research.

Smelser, Neil J, Sociology, (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994), *R-RMRR HM51 .S636 1994 Topical essays on all aspects of sociology, with a focus on theoretical paradigms and fields of research.

The Social Sciences: A Cross-disciplinary Guide to Selected Resources, 3rd ed., edited by Nancy L. Herron, (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2002), *R-RMRR H61 .S63 2002 Well-annotated and selective. Includes introductory essays on various fields in the social sciences.

Sproull, Natalie L., Handbook of Research Methods: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in the Social Sciences, 2nd ed., (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995), *R-RMRR Q180.55 .M4 S67 1995 A practical guide covering all phases of research design with quantitative orientation.

Webb, William H., Sources of Information in the Social Sciences: A Guide to the Literature, 3rd ed., (Chicago: American Library Association, 1986), JFF 99-1848 and JFF 07-103 Although dated, this resource combines an annotated bibliography of reference resources with clear discussions of the methodologies and perspectives in the social sciences.


Bibliographies provide access to books and journals by subject. They are useful for finding books or journals appropriate to a specific topic, and for surveying the literature.

Brown, Samuel R., Finding the Source in Sociology and Anthropology: A Thesaurus Index to the Reference Collection (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), *R-RMRR HM51 .B75 1987 Selective bibliography of the social science reference material with very good subject access. Strong on locating topical bibliographies.

Current Sociology. La Sociologie Contemporaine, (Paris: Blackwell, 1952- present), JFL 93-387, current issue in Room 100, Journal of the International Sociological Association. Topical issues, each with an extended bibliography.

International Bibliography of Sociology. Bibliographie Internationale de Sociologie, (London: Routledge, 1951-present), JFL 99-221. Yearly bibliography of the sociology literature compiled by the British Library, with classified subject arrangement. International coverage of over 20,000 books and 2,500 journals.

Wepsiec, Jan., Social Sciences: An International Bibliography of Serial Literature, 1830-1895, (London; New York: Mansell, 1992), *R-RMRR H85 .W38 1992

——— , Sociology: An International Bibliography of Serial Publications, 1880-1980, (London: Mansell Pub. Ltd., 1983), JLF 83-289. Subject access to serial publications in sociology and selected related fields. Includes periodicals, books in series, and occasional papers.

General Works

Agger, Ben, Critical Social Theories: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2006) *R-RMRR HM585 .A46 2006

The Blackwell Companion to Major Classical Social Theories, edited by George Ritzer (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003) *R-RMRR HM585 .B527 2003 An analysis of twelve major theorists.

The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, edited by Savid A. Snow et al. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004) *R-RMRR HM881 .B53 2004 Examines all aspects of social movements including identity, leadership, adversaries, ideology, and cultural ramifications.

Encyclopedia of Social Theory, edited by George Ritzer (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005), 2 vols. *R-RMRR HM425 .E47 2005 Includes major theories (such as pragmatism, social space, individualism) as well as the principal theorists and schools.

Gordon, Scott, The History and Philosophy of Social Science, (New York: Routledge, 1991), *R-RMRR H51 .G67 1991 A historical overview of the development of social sciences from classical and Enlightenment thought.

Levine, Donald Nathan, Visions of the Sociological Tradition, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), JFE 96-1114 Focuses on theoretical perspectives and their relation to competing accounts of the history of sociology.

Ross, Dorothy, The Origins of American Social Science, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), *R-RMRR H53 .U5 R67 1990 History of U.S. social sciences with a focus on sociology, relating them to developments in the American experience.

Social Theory: A Guide to Central Thinkers, edited by Peter Beilharz, (North Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1991), JFD 07-4057 Review of selected theorists and schools of thought in social sciences. Provides short biographies and bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Sociology in America: A History, edited by Craig Calhoun (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) *R-RMRR HM477 .U6 S63 2007

Swingewood, Alan, A Short History of Sociological Thought, 3rd ed., (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), JFE 00-5193. Concise overview and introduction to the field from the Enlightenment to the present.

Westby, David L., The Growth of Sociological Theory: Human Nature, Knowledge, and Social Change, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991), JFE 92-6938. Analysis of the development of sociological thought from the 18th to the early 20th century.

Locating Journal Articles

Locating articles within the journal literature and collections can be challenging. A wide variety of indexing and abstracting resources in different formats can be used to locate articles in periodicals, collected works, and newspapers.

Electronic Resources | Print Resources

Electronic Resources

All indexes noted below are in electronic format, except C.R.I.S.: The Combined Retrospective Index Set to Journals in Sociology, 1895-1974. Coverage varies for the electronic resources, but most are limited to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

A searchable digital archive of major scholarly journals including many in social sciences, such as American Journal of Sociology and American Sociological Review.

Project Muse
Electronic publishing of major academic journals, including many titles in social sciences like Cultural Critique, Social Forces, and Social Text.

America: History and Life
Indexes and abstracts of scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada. Includes books, reviews, dissertations, and articles.

Anthropological Literature
Indexes articles and essays in anthropology and related fields, including sociology, archaeology, religion, linguistics, and art history.

ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials
This resource contains citations to articles, books, and book reviews from journals specializing in religion church history, and theology; the full text is supplied for many articles. Useful for its inclusion of materials relating to the sociology of religion and the anthropology of religion.

Bibliographic database covering the social sciences and humanities.

Left Index
Indexes a wide range of politically left and radical periodicals.

Social Sciences Abstracts
Indexes publications covering a wide range of interdisciplinary fields of the social sciences.

Social Sciences Citation Index
Indexes citations from journals in the social sciences, including sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, and cognate disciplines.


SOCIndex with full text is the world’s most comprehensive sociology research database, which features nearly two billion records covering a broad spectrum of sociological study.

Sociological Abstracts
Indexes and abstracts literature in theoretical and applied sociology, and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences.

Wile, Annadel, ed., C.R.I.S.: The Combined Retrospective Index Set to Journals in Sociology, 1895-1975, 6 vols. (Washington, DC: Carrollton Press, 1978), JLF 86-1798. Retrospective indexing of over 100 major sociology journals, providing subject and author access.

Print Resources

Materials with call numbers beginning with *R are in the open reference shelves in the Rose Main Reading Room. All others must be requested in the Public Catalog Room, Room 315.

America: History and Life, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC: Clio Press, 1954- ),
IAA+ 98-999. Indexes and abstracts of scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada. Includes books, reviews, dissertations, and articles.

Left Index, (Santa Cruz, CA: Left Index, 1982-), JFK 95-79.

PAIS International, (New York: Public Affairs Information Service, 1972-), *R-*D 91-803 for last ten years, JFM 98-382 and JFM 98-383 for previous. Indexes a wide variety of materials, not just books and articles, relating to social and public policy issues from many countries.

Social Sciences Index, (New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1974-), *R-*D 75-1211. Indexes more than 500 periodicals in the social sciences.

Sociological Abstracts, (San Diego: Sociological Abstracts Inc., 1952-), *RS-SA 91-2187 from 1990 on; JFM 99-210 from 1952-1989. Indexes a wide variety of sociology materials, including over 2,500 journals, selected books, conference reports, case studies, and dissertations.

Wile, Annadel, N. C.R.I.S.: The Combined Retrospective Index Set to Journals in Sociology, 1895-1975, (Washington, DC: Carrollton Press, 1978), JLF 86-1798. Retrospective indexing of over 100 major sociology journals, providing subject and author access.

Selected Internet Links

Numerous web sites are devoted to sociology and sociological research, including academic department homepages, associations, student-produced sites, and others. The following sites have been selected for their authority, stability, and usefulness.

  • Sociorealm A thorough guide to sociology resources online, aimed at sociology students and professionals. Good coverage of theorists and sociological issues.
  • American Sociological Association
    Broad coverage of the sociology field in the United States, including employment, funding, conferences, publishing, research, and institutions.

  • International Sociological Association
    Access to the association's activities and good range of links to sociology resources online.

  • Sociorealm
    Attractive, well-maintained, and thorough guide to sociology resources online, aimed at sociology students and professionals. Good coverage of theorists and sociological issues.

  • Sociosite
    Extremely thorough and well-produced guide to internet resources in sociology with an international perpective. Created and maintained by the Social Science faculty of the University of Amsterdam.

    For World Social Science report, DARE Data Bank, Social Science online periodicals, and more.

Where to Go for More Help

General Research Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Located in Room 315, the Reference Desk is staffed during all hours the library is open.

General Research Division Telephone Reference: 212-930-0831.

  • E-mail Reference Service is also available.

General Research and Reference Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The New York Public Library's division devoted to African-American, African, and African diasporic culture. Located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard.
  • Telephone: (212) 491-2200
  • E-mail:

Science, Industry and Business Library, Research Libraries of The New York Public Library

Sociology research relating to economics, industry, law, and government may require use of this library. Located at 188 Madison Avenue, the Information Services Desk is on the lower level in the Research Library area.

SIBL's Telephone Reference: 212- 592-7000.

E-reference form is also available.

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