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FYS 101-61: Poverty in America (Litkowski & Litkowski): Search Strategies

This LibGuide is here to help you find resources for research in regards to Poverty in America.

Controlled Vocabulary

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—Services for—Geographic

Poor whites—Geographic

Poor African Americans—Geographic

Poor women—Geographic

Poor children—Geographic

Poor families—Geographic

Poor girls—Geographic

Poor men—Geographic

Poor women—Geographic

Rural poor—Geographic

Urban poor—Geographic

Working poor—Geographic

Elderly poor


Low-income housing—Geographic

Low-income single mothers—Geographic

Low-income consumers—Geographic

Low-income students—Geographic

Low-income mothers—Geographic

Low-income parents—Geographic

Social mobility—Geographic

Social mobility—Geographic—Case studies

Downward mobility (Social Sciences)—Geographic

Subsistence economy


Social service, rural


Public welfare—Geographic

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  

Geographic—Social conditions.

Geographic—Economic conditions

Natural Vocabulary

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. 


Sally Childs-Helton's picture
Sally Childs-Helton
Irwin Library, Rm 345
Special Collections, Rare Books, and University Archives
Childs-Helton eval


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