This guide is geared towards early undergraduate students and introduces the topic of trauma and abuse—a big topic that could potentially overlap with psychology, political science, sociology, medicine, media, art, law, and more, depending on the research question. Here you can find some ideas for key words and sub-topics, as well as a few databases to start searching, and a small sampling of materials the UMN libraries having to do with trauma and abuse.
Example keywords and subtopics
These are some examples to help you get started thinking about what big concepts and key terms might be helpful to use in your search. Try to use a variety of search terms and key words as you search, which will help you figure out what searches lead to the most relevant results. Want to learn more about keywords and developing a search strategy? This video will explain in more depth.
- violence OR domestic violence OR intimate partner violence
- aggressive behavior
- cycle of abuse
- post-traumatic stress disorder OR PTSD
- trauma response
- trauma informed
- mental health
Researching a big topic can be difficult and time-intensive, so it often helps to narrow the research focus towards a smaller sub-topic. Here are a few examples of potential areas a research project regarding trauma or abuse might examine.
Abuse: child abuse, domestic abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, representations of abuse, relationship between abuse and addiction, abuse and public policy or laws, abuse and family structures, or abuse and online spaces such as social media.
Trauma: complex trauma, historical or generational trauma, treatment for trauma, trauma response and triggers, adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and their relationship to trauma, physical or mental effects of trauma (e.g. memory, blood pressure, sleep, etc), impacts of trauma on relationships, representations of trauma in art or media.
Databases are a very useful tool for a researcher, because many of them specialize in offering credible, scholarly sources like academic journal articles, or more popular sources such as newspaper or magazine articles. Databases are powerful because they allow you to search through many academic journals at once, and searching the right database can yield far more relevant, helpful results than Google can. Watch this tutorial to learn more about databases.
A few databases to explore:
A great place to start your research on any topic, search multidisciplinary, scholarly research articles. This database provides access to scholarly and peer reviewed journals, popular magazines and other resources. View this tutorial to learn how to go from a general idea to a very precise set of results of journal articles and scholarly materials.
A comprehensive interdisciplinary collection of journal article citations. Articles are not limited to the sciences alone, and also includes results from arts and humanities, as well as social sciences. This resource can link you to who cited an article, as well as what papers the article is citing—very handy. View this tutorial to learn more.
Ethnic NewsWatch is a current resource of full-text newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic and minority press from 1990, providing researchers access to essential, often overlooked perspectives.
Find articles in thousands of psychology journals, from 1806 to current. View this tutorial to learn how to go from a general idea to a very precise set of results of journal articles and scholarly materials.
Search articles from journals, etc. that focus on how gender impacts a broad spectrum of subject areas such as the women's movement, men's studies, the transgender community and the changes in gender roles.
Sample of online materials
Below are a selection of online books and readings on the broad topic. We have more online books, journal articles, and sources in our Libraries Search and article databases.
Publication year: 2021
The aim of this review was to estimate the effect of COVID-19-related restrictions (i.e., stay at home orders, lockdown orders) on reported incidents of domestic violence. A systematic review of articles was conducted in various databases and a meta-analysis was also performed. The search was carried out based on conventional scientific standards that are outlined in the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) and studies needed to meet certain criteria. Analyses were conducted with a random effects restricted maximum likelihood model.
This is an example of how to search using a database:
The important thing to remember is that searching on databases is different from searching on google. Instead of typing your question "How does mental impact domestic violence?" try using your keywords to link topics together.
In this example, we used domestic violence OR domestic abuse OR intimate partner violence AND mental health to get results. As you can see there are 5,363 results, which may feel overwhelming. You can adjust your search to either narrow or broaden your search. Notice that the results automatically sort by date (NOT relevance), putting the most recent results at the top. This setting can be adjusted if you prefer.
For example, look at this first image where we searched "trauma AND trust." 13,000 results is more than we may want to dig through and maybe not many of these are relevant to the research question.
By adding an additional term, "child," we are now able to significantly trim the results, and more of them are focused on the sub-topic—the impact trauma has on children and their sense of trust.
This guide was created by Theresa Heitz in the Spring of 2023.