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Political Science 302: Writing in Political Science: Finding Articles

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

Step 1: Select article databases

Where should you look for your articles?

  • Research@UWW searches across disciplines for "Everything" -- articles, books, ebooks, government publications, media, and more. You can search just the Articles segment, or after searching "Everything" you can use limiters on the side to limit results to show only articles or only peer-reviewed journals.
  • UW-Whitewater's libraries subscribe to many databases that search periodical (journal, magazine & newspaper) articles, and some also search book chapters, dissertations, etc. Some are discipline-specific and others are multidisciplinary. Ask a Librarian for assistance with selecting databases appropriate for your topic if needed. Not all content in these databases is searchable via Research@UWW.
    Access databases by selecting Articles/ Databases on the libraries' main page.

Recommended for this class

Good databases to search for political science research articles:

Legal/government policy topics: You may want to search for law review articles, legal authority (primary or secondary, federal or state), or publications of legislative bodies (and possibly other government agency publications).

  • LegalTrac (Gale) - article database with a legal focus
  • Military & Government Collection (EBSCOhost)
  • Nexis Uni - legal research database (see search tips on POLISCI 418 guide)
  • ProQuest on the database listing (ProQuest Congressional and ProQuest Legislative Insights) - U,S. Congress materials including committee hearings and reports, CRS reports, and GAO reports. (See search tips at right)
  • Wisconsin Digital Archive - Wisconsin legislative support agencies (Legislative Reference Bureau, Legislative Fiscal Bureau, etc) & other agency publications.

Step 2: 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 on the search page, such as date or type of publication. In many cases you can do this after running your search too.

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.

Step 3: Evaluate search results & amend search; Step 4: Reuse search in other databases

Evaluate your results, revise your search if needed, and select appropriate articles.

  • How many results are found? Did you get too few? Too many? Do the titles seem relevant to your topic?

If needed, revise your search to improve your results! Incorporate into your search appropriate words or phrases found in articles' abstracts, subject headings, and titles. Re-evaluate your results.

  • Are you required to find scholarly or "peer-reviewed" articles?

Many databases have a box you can check on the search page, or a limiter you can apply to the results, to limit results to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. The Scholarly Journal v. Popular Magazine Articles guide will explain the characteristics of a scholarly journal article.

  • What should you do with the articles you select?

Obtain citation information and either print or save the articles selected. In some databases, e.g., EBSCOhost and ProQuest databases, help with citation formatting is offered. However, be sure to review these citations and make any necessary corrections.

In Research@UWW and in some other databases, e.g., EBSCOhost and ProQuest databases, you can save articles and/or searches to an account or folder(s). If you do not log into an account, saving only lasts during your current session. If you have an account, the saved materials will be there the next time you login.

If you need more articles, or your results have been unimpressive, try searching in other databases

In many cases you can just copy and paste a search from one database into another, e.g., copy a search used to search EBSCOhost's Business Source Complete into ProQuest Business Premium Collection (both are business article databases).

Creating Accounts to Save Your Research

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




Find the Full Text

When an article's full text is not available in a database, click Find It button to learn if it is available in other databases or in the libraries' print or microform collections.

Search find journals for a journal, magazine or newspaper title to determine whether and where you can find full text articles in it.

Google Scholar Off Campus

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

ProQuest Search Tips

Use these commands in ProQuest Global Newsstream to search within publications:

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*