This guide is designed to help you start your Political Science library research.
Please feel free to email me if you get stuck, have additional research questions, would like to set up an appointment, or have other sources to include in the guide.
Library Research Step by Step
Choose your topic.
- Develop your research question, hypothesis, or thesis statement, e.g. Does gender effect how Americans vote?
- Break that statement into key concepts, e.g. gender, voting, Americans
- Think of other ways to phrase those concepts. Use synonyms. Consider more specific words (to narrow your focus) or more general terms (to expand your search), e.g.
gender: sex, men, man, women, woman, male, female…
voting: vote, voter, voting, election, elections…
Americans: America, United States…
Construct a basic search strategy.
- In most databases, you can combine terms with and (both terms must appear in the hit)and or (one term must appear in the hit—for synonyms or evenly weighted terms), e.g. gender and voting; gender or sex
- In many databases, you can use a symbol such as * or ! to take the place of letters to get hits with multiple endings of a word, e.g. vot*
- Example search: (gender or sex) and (vot* or election*) and (united states or america*)
Choose the kinds of resources you want to find and the best tools to find them.
- Books: look in an online library catalog like Roger (UC San Diego’s library catalog)
- Scholarly Articles: look in a discipline specific databases such as Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- Primary sources: Items in the library are cataloged in Roger. Other resources are available in specialized databases.
- Data: specialized databases or directly from the researchers
Run searches using the tools you choose.
- Experiment with keywords and combinations of keywords, e.g. I might try
(gender or sex) and (vot* or election*) and (united states or america*)
(women or woman or female) and (vot* or election)
Try different tools.
- Check the help screens or guides to each database for specifics on combining your terms and whether your results are ranked by date or relevance.
- When you find good hits, look at the subject headings/descriptors. Try running new searches using those terms.
Get the citation information. You need this for your bibliography.
- Email records to yourself as a backup.
- Some databases can export the citation in a specific format (e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA)
- Use RefWorks (free to UCSD students) to manage, store, and format your citations.
Get the actual item.
- It may be full text in the database or it may be available through UCe-Links. If we do not have it, you can usually request the item through Interlibrary Loan (ILL).