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POLI 99: Political Science Research (Levy - Tans): 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 searching, try focusing your topic by writing a one sentence research question.
    For example: Will changing the Electoral College from a "winner-take-all" format to a proportional division of votes make the Electoral College more closely reflect the will of the voters? 
  • Identify the main ideas in your research question.
    • electoral college
    • vote distribution
  • Boil the statement down to keywords, or the most important elements of your issue.
    EX: electoral college, winner take all, proportional 
  • Use an asterisk to find variations of a word.
    EX: proportion* will find proportion and proportional
  • Then, separate the keywords with the "and" and "or" connectors
    EX: electoral college and (winner take all or proportional)

The above search strategy in the Political Science Complete database will look like this. Note that I changed "Select a Field" to "SU Subjects" for the first line so the database will only look for "electoral college" in the index (subject) terms.  

You can also limit your search to "peer reviewed" publications so you search only the academic literature.

This search retrieved 33 peer-reviewed citations.

Last Revised on April 6, 2020

Social Sciences and Government Information Librarian