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POLI 001: Introduction to U.S. Politics: Search Strategies

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Search Strategies for Finding Journal Articles

Searching databases for journal articles is a bit more challenging than using tools such as Google. 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: Under what circumstances can a president authorize the use of force without congressional approval?
  • Identify the main ideas in your research question.
    • presidents
    • use of force
    • congressional approval
  • Boil the statement down to keywords, or the most important elements of your issue. EX: presidents, war, emergency, crisis, congress, legislature

  • Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. EX: presiden* will find president, presidents, presidency, presidential

  • Then, separate the keywords with the "and" and "or" connectors EX: (war or emergency or crisis) and (congress* or legislat*)

The above search strategy in the Political Science Complete database will look like this. Note that I changed "Select a Field" to "SU Subject Terms" so only the index terms for this article are searched. I also clicked the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box on the left.

Sample search in Political Science Complete database

This search retrieved 65 peer-reviewed citations.

When you look at the citations, pay special attention to the subject terms in the record. You might find other subject terms that will be useful for additional searches.

Last revised on August 17, 2023