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POLS 223: American Political Process: The Congress (HC)

Political Science 223: American Political Process: The Congress (Oberfield) Spring 2016

Tips for Searching Part 2

Subject Headings allow you to find relevant material grouped together including titles that do not use the keywords you may be searching.


Finding subject headings

       Look at a book record in Tripod, check the subjects assigned to it, and choose whatever ones are relevant for your research.

Example:  Underdog Politics: The Minority Party in the U. S. House of Representatives

By Matthew N. Green .  Yale University Press, 2015.

                 Subjects include:                                                   

                    opposition (political science)  united states

                   political parties  united states   (sorted by newest titles)

                   united states congress house   (with legislative documents largely removed) 

                   united states  politics and government  (21* OR 20*)  (limited to the 20th or 21st century)


   Subject search   united states  congress  house   =  102 results

Refining subject searches

                        You can combine different concepts into a single subject search for precision.  The results are more focused than a keyword search.

                         But all the words have to be terminology used in library subject cataloging.

                         To ensure this, you can use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination subject search:

 (Subject: ("campaign funds" OR elect*) AND Subject:(congress* OR house OR senate) AND Subject:"united states") =  288  results

                        Searches a composite group of terms about Congress and elections.

Tips for Searching Part 1

If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review.  At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results.  One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.


For example, a search for congress  AND partisan will return items that contain both concepts":


partisan* OR polariz* returns items that contain either one of the concepts or both:


united states NOT latin america returns items that talk about the United States of America but do not mention Latin America:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("decision making") or titles:

For example, "Is Bipartisanship Dead"

will search for those words in that order, finding the 2015 book   Is Bipartisanship Dead?  Policy Agreement and Agenda-setting in the House of Representatives


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.


For example, one could search for politic*  to find poltic, politics, political, politicking, and so on.


Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womyn.


 Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.

   (congress* OR senat* OR house) AND (partisan* OR party OR polariz*) AND ("united states" OR america*)  will return results for the union of the three subject areas

 Results include:  Clark, Jennifer HayesMinority Parties in U.S. Legislatures : Conditions of Influence.  University of Michigan Press, 2015.