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Political Science 302: Writing in Political Science: Articles

An online course guide for researching topics in the field of political science for POLISCI 302

Select article databases

Where should you look for articles?

If you're unsure where to start, ask your professor for help choosing databases appropriate for your topic, or try these options:

Recommended Research Databases

Recommended for most political science research topics:

See all of the databases tagged for Political Science.

Useful depending on the research topic:

Historical topics

See databases tagged for History, and the library guide on Historical Newspaper Research.

Legal topics (law review articles)

See databases tagged for Law.

Select search terms

Translate your topic into search terms, which can be words or phrases.

Choose search words carefully, after brainstorming synonyms, etc. You may start with only a broader topic, and then you can add or substitute search words after reading some articles that will help you focus more narrowly. Pay attention to how many results you get and whether they are relevant. Adjust your search, using words you find in relevant articles' titles, abstracts, and subject headings. Be thorough by using synonyms and truncation when there are multiple ways to refer to a concept. Use commands to define relationships between search terms:

  • Use OR between synonyms (you don't care which appear in your results).
  • Use AND between required concepts (words to the left as well as words to the right MUST appear in results
  • Use ( ) to group synonyms for one concept if your search also uses AND to require another concept
  • Use * (in most databases) to truncate if variant endings on a word stem are acceptable

Apply limits either on the search page or on the search results display, such as date or type of publication.

Do not limit results to items that are full-text in the databases you are searching, because the full text may be in other databases ("Find It" will help you determine that later).

Sample Search

Sample search:

(voter* OR voting) AND (motivat* OR influen* OR participat* OR activity) AND (facebook OR myspace OR texting OR text messag* OR sms OR twitter)

You'll see how many articles are found in each database searched. Did you get too few? Too many?

You can see subjects assigned to the articles and you can add or remove them, or amend your entire search with words from article abstracts, subject headings, and titles. Watch how the changes affect the number of results and how relevant they are.

Use Database Accounts to Save Research

You can create accounts and save items (and searches) to come back to later in several databases:

Screenshot of EBSCOhost databases. To set up or log into an account for saving search results click Sign In on the right side of the top horizontal banner.


Screenshot of JSTOR. To set up an account for saving search results click Register at the top right. To access an account click Login To My Account at the top right.


Screenshot of ProQuest databases. For an account for saving search results, click My Research at the top right and select either Sign into My Research or Create My Research Account


Screenshot of ResearchatUWW databases. Click Sign in on the right side of the top horizontal banner and sign in with your UWW NetID.

Research@UWW: Limiting to Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

From search results, see available filters or limits on the left. Select as needed by clicking boxes to the left, e.g., date. To limit results to scholarly journal articles, select Articles under Resource Type as well as Peer-reviewed Journals under Show Only. When done selecting filters, click the green Apply Filters button at the bottom.

screenshot of limit options that appear down the left side of search results

Find the Full Text

If an article's full text is not available in a database, click Find It button to see if it is available in other databases or in the libraries' print or microform collections. Or, use Journal Search for a journal, magazine or newspaper title to learn whether and where you may find its full text articles. See also the "How to Use Find It and the Journals Search" guide.

Google Scholar Off Campus

If you use Google Scholar to find articles when you are off campus, then configure the settings to link to UW-Whitewater libraries' full text access.

ProQuest Search Tips

Use these commands when searching ProQuest databases:

AND requires both search words to appear, e.g., clinton AND trump

OR allows either or both search words to appear, e.g., clinton OR trump

NOT excludes a word, e.g., clinton NOT trump

Use " " around an exact phrase, e.g., "electoral college"

An asterisk (*) on a word stem accepts any endings, e.g., politic* will find politics, political, politician, etc.

ProQuest automatically searches within full text, so you may want to use some "proximity" commands between search words to control how far apart they can be:

NEAR/# requires search words to be within your specified # number of words of each other, e.g., campaign* NEAR/5 president*

Use () to group OR'd words in a complex search also containing AND, e.g., (campaign* OR debate* OR speech*) AND (clinton OR trump) AND immigra*