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POLI 170: Research Methods in Political Science: Search Strategies


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Search Strategies

Searching databases for journal articles is a bit more challenging than using tools such as Google or Bing. The good news is that you have a lot more control over how you design the search. This also means you should get better, more targeted results.

  • Before you start your research, try focusing your topic by writing a one sentence research question.
    For example: What roles do caucuses, primaries, and political conventions play in the process of nominating a presidential candidate?
  • Identify the main ideas in your research question.
    • caucuses
    • primaries
    • political conventions
    • presidential elections
    • nominations
  • Boil the statement down to keywords, or the most important elements of your issue.
    EX: caucuses, primaries, conventions, president, elections, nominations
  • Use an asterisk to find variations of a word.
    EX: president* will find president, presidents, presidential
  • Then, separate the keywords with the "and" and "or" connectors
    EX: (caucus* or primar* or convention*) and (president* or election* or nominat*)

The above search strategy in the Worldwide Political Science database will look like this. Note that I changed "Keywords" to "Descriptors" so only the index terms for this article are searched.

This search retrieved 130 peer-reviewed citations.


Last Revised by Sophia Neuhaus on September 2, 2010

Social Sciences and Government Information Librarian