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Political Science General Research Guide: General Overview


Searching at this stage of the digital evolution is not yet a seamless process. Not everything is digitized. Whatever is digitized is not necessarily in a standard format or findable by any one search interface. These are the the major search gateways commonly used at Emory:  DiscoverEDatabases@EmoryWorldCat, and the Googles (Google Web, Google Book, Google Scholar).

Searching is one step in most disciplinary research practices.  It usually entails concurrent processes like evaluating and capturing your results.  This page centers on locating resources, sometimes called "information literacy" or "information competency."

Search Strategies

  • Clarify your topic or thesis One reason for searching is to gain clarity on a research topic.  And the more clarity you gain, the easier it is to search.  It is an ongoing iterative process.  Use a written draft of your topic as a touchstone to which you can return often to clarify and prioritize what you're searching for. Run it by your instructor or others periodically for feedback.  For quick summaries of topics, try Reference Works

  • Keep a Search Journal.  It is easy to lose track of what searches worked or didn't work.  There a couple methods for tracking your search history.

  • Books or Articles?  Unlike the sciences, the largest proportion of scholarly work in the Humanities is published in monographs (books by a single author) rather than in journal articlesSocial Sciences falls somewhere in between. Use DiscoverE (primary tab) or WorldCat to find books; use DiscoverE (articles tab) or Google Scholar to find articles.  Google Books often publishes sections of works still in copyright, esp. introductory matter, that can often help determine if the work is worth pursuing in the libraries.

  • Find keywords in the standard vocabulary for a topic or familiarize yourself with the topic's academic context by using reference works (including Wikipedia), a discipline-specific database, or LC subject headings.  

  • Install the Firefox extension LibX to search DiscoverEWorldCatGoogle web or Google Scholar by simply highlighting and right-clicking on the title, author, isbn or keyword in any web page. Useful to find books and articles on the fly, as well as tables of contents, synopses and reviews in Google from a DiscoverE record.
  • Use bibliographies from articles to locate related titles--note that not all bibliographies are perfect, so be flexible!  Consider the variety of potential resources used by an author.  Use eJournals or DiscoverE to determine if Emory owns.  If not, visit (online) ILL.
  • Use DiscoverE to Browse shelves (you can also go to the stacks and physically browse!

  • Follow citation links or "related record" links if available in a search result from a database.  See the Citation Tracking guide.

  • Target reviews as well as the original articles and monographs, esp. in article databases that give you the option to select reviews as a search option.

  • Cross disciplinary boundaries, e.g., for a humanities-related topic, also search social science, business and science-centered databases as categorized in the subject indexes of Databases@Emory

  • Unlock the "deep" structure of Database search interfaces. Checking for the standard features like controlled vocabulary, boolean operators, limiters and wildcard characters should help you familiarize yourself with a new database quickly.

  • Evaluate your results: For guidance, see UC Berkeley's Critical Evaluation of Resources, Cornell's Critically Analyzing Information Sources, or Cornell's Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages.

  • Capture your results: Use bibliographic software like Zotero or Endnote to capture print or online book and journal citations or full-text articles and to automatically generate footnotes and reference lists.  You can use Zotero also to annotate your readings or share your bibliographies online with other

Subject Guide

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Chris Palazzolo
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