Starting the Senior Thesis in Political Science
As you start in on your senior thesis project, use these strategies and resources to find and analyze both scholarly publications and primary sources.
1) Developing a topic
Review books and articles you've read and found interesting and read over the papers you’ve written for your classes. Talk to professors and students in your department about your ideas. Consult Haverford’s digital thesis archive to see papers written by students in previous years.
2) Creating search strategies
Take concepts from your reading and consider the topics you want to explore. What potential connections do you see? What factors do researchers focus on in their publications? Then, turn those ideas into search terms. Tutorial
3) Accessing Resources
Conduct your research through our library catalog and databases. Don't limit yourself to the materials that are immediately available in the Tri-College collections. Take advantage of our interlibrary loan services to have a much wider range of books, articles, and other resources delivered for your use.
4) Digital Tools for Analyzing Text, Data and Images
Explore different ways in which you can analyze primary sources that are key for your research topic. Digital Scholarship librarians provide tools and methods that enable students to interrogate sources including data visualizations, critical text editions, data analyses and computational methods.
5) Cited Reference Searching
Usually researchers find more sources in the footnotes in an article or book, but these will always be older than that publication. Citation indexes like Web of Science and Google Scholar provide a way of seeing who has subsequently engaged with the scholarly books and articles you’re interested in. By relying on connections between authors rather than subjects and by moving forward in time, citation searching can open up new avenues of research. Tutorial
6) Joining the Scholarly Conversation
Researchers conduct scholarly conversations in their publications, advancing new ideas and working toward consensus on significant issues. By reading for these exchanges, you come to a fuller understanding of the dynamics within your field and how your research can contribute to the ongoing work.
Make an appointment with your subject librarian, Margaret Schaus (firstname.lastname@example.org), for help with developing a topic and search strategies and for accessing resources so that you can accelerate the process of joining the scholarly conversation! Just have a brief question? Email me for a quick response.
1) Literature reviews
Literature reviews are a particularly useful tool for research. They provide a rundown of scholarly sources relevant to a specific field or question of study. They map out the intellectual landscape succinctly and give you the major landmarks in terms of key authors and significant titles for greater understanding. Tutorial and the Annual Review of Political Science
2) Handbooks and Background
These kinds of resources provide overview essays that address major issues and topics within a field of study. The authors not only discuss key content but they also provide a more sophisticated level of analysis and contextualization than you might find in a textbook or introductory study. The authors are chosen for their expertise in specific areas and deliver authoritative essays. The material they choose to include in their bibliographies are good points of departure for further research and reading. Tutorial
3) Journal Articles
Scholarly journal articles are peer reviewed before publication and offer original, reliable, and in-depth scholarship research. Accompanying bibliographies document key publications for further study. You can find journal articles through both multidisciplinary and subject-specific databases. Tutorial and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
4) Scholarly Books
These provide an even more in-depth engagement with a topic and are vetted through peer-review. The Tri-Colleges collection contains hundreds of thousands of titles but there are literally millions more available for you to borow. Use WorldCat to search for books as well as reports, films and other materials owned by libraries around the world. After you’ve identified an item(s) in WorldCat, use the FindIt button to request it.
5) Relevant Primary Sources
In your readings, what kinds of sources are researchers using? Collections of texts and data are available through Tripod and the Web. Email Margaret Schaus for help in identifying and/or accessing sources including newspapers, legal cases, datasets, documents from governments and international organizations, policy proposals and think tank reports.
Keeping up to Date with the Scholarly Record
For recent developments in scholarship and new publications, add a publication year limit, such as 2018-2021, when you search a database. Check Social Science Research Network for recent journal articles and conference papers. Also, look up scholars and publications on the Web and social media, especially Twitter, to find out about cutting-edge scholarship.