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POLS 067: Great Power Rivalry (SC)

Political Science 067: Great Power Rivalry in the 21st Century (Kaya) Fall 2013

Choosing Search Terms

Choose search terms that you expect to find in written documents about your topic. 

If you're looking for secondary sources (including journal articles or books written by scholars), use the language you would expect to find in a scholarly publication. 

If you're looking for sources aimed at the public (newspapers, TV news transcripts, blogs), use more colloquial language when searching.

Especially when researching in political science, keep in mind that individuals with different opinions on an issue may use very different language to discuss it.  For example, think about who uses the term anti-choice and who uses the term pro-life.  

Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Synonyms, technical terms
  • Transliterations and alternate spellings
  • Alternate or historical place names (e.g. Beijing / Peking)
  • Maiden names
  • Initials and full names
  • British spellings
  • Spellings and terms in use during the time period or in the region/country
  • Abbreviations vs. full words

Once you have found a few sources on your topic, take note of the language that is being used and incorporate it into your search.

Article Databases

Use subject-specific databases to find scholarly articles on your topic. By using Political Science-specific databases, you can more easily hone in on relevant articles (since there will be fewer irrelevant articles in your results).

Search Tips:

  • Use the * to search for variations on your search term. Example: Mexic* will search for Mexico, Mexican, Mexicans
          Works in: Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, PAIS International, Proquest Political Science, Hein Online, and GenderWatch

  • Use double quotes "like this" to only search for a specific phrase. Example: "drug trafficking"

  • Rather than entering keywords that you think describe the topic, try to think about which words would be included in a scholarly article written on your topic and use those as your search terms.

  • To find results that are more directly relevant to your topic, try limiting your search to just words in the abstract (summary) or title.

Find Policy and Grey Literature

You can find statistics and charts in think tank reports and other "grey literature."

Policy/grey literature will appear in the major Political Science databases (PAIS, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts). You can also find these kinds of sources using the following databases and websites.