The terms below come from the Library of Congress Subject Headings list (LCSH), the same terms libraries use to catalog books, etc. When you get into a new index or database, check to see if it uses controlled vocabulary, and if so, find the terms that best fit your needs. Controlled vocabulary, like LCSH, can provide easy access to useful sources, and many are academically solid since they tend to be materials purchased by libraries. When you find books or articles using LCSH, select an item (e.g. a book); then click on “description.” This will bring up all the LCSH used for that item. If you see a subject heading that looks useful, click on it and it will take you to all items that use that LCSH. Not all academic databases use LCSH, so write down the terms you find. Below are some examples of Library of Congress Subject Headings; I can help you find more in your specific areas of research. Note: where you see Geographic as part of a subject heading, this can be filled in with the name of a country, region, state, or city. For example, Poverty—Geographic means you can use Poverty—Indiana.
Poor African Americans—Geographic
Low-income single mothers—Geographic
Social mobility—Geographic—Case studies
Downward mobility (Social Sciences)—Geographic
Social service, rural
Working class whites—Geographic
Working class whites—Geographic--Social conditions
Working class—Geographic—Social conditions
Mountain people—Geography--Social conditions
African Americans—Geographic--Social conditions
Many indexes, databases, websites, etc. can be searched using natural language, or uncontrolled vocabulary. Try various names or terms for your topic (poor, economically disadvantaged, impoverished people, paupers). This strategy can bring up sources you might not find otherwise, but you must also evaluate the sources more closely in most cases. Using a strategy of controlled and uncontrolled vocabulary is a good combination (e.g., elderly poor, a LCSH, and poor older people, natural vocabulary). Regardless of which you’re using, as you search, keep track of which search terms return you the most hits, and the most academically reliable hits. A research log is a great way to do this.