research tips and a guide to resources
This page provides basic information for students doing research in political science generally and in world and comparative politics more specifically. Suggestions and feeback are always welcomed!
Check here, too, for links to internet resources.
doing research: tips, strategies and sources
Conducting research or simply learning more about important issues in global and comparative politics is a difficult task for many students, but it need not be. All that is required is a willingness to follow a few basic steps (not necessarily in order of importance), which I describe below.
One of the first steps in the research process (that is, after you have already decided on a topic) is to find scholarly articles and books. And one of the first places to look for this material is in one of the many databases to which our library subscribes. The library-subscribed databases are the most reliable sources of scholarly sources. I describe just a few of these databases below, but make sure you check the library's main database page yourself. You should, especially if you are having trouble locating material, also schedule an appointment to speak with a librarian. The library staff is there to help you and most are eager to help ensure you do the best job you can in your research efforts. If you're not sure
In addition to scholarly articles and books, your research should also include a search for primary source documents [click for explanation] and related materials. For students of global politics, international relations, and comparative politics it is sometimes difficult to find such materials, largely because most governments and governmental institutions are very secretive about their internal policy-making process. Still, there is a wealth of material available. Two particularly good sources of historical material, both of which are described below, are the National Security Archive and the Avalon Project. Don't forget, too, that news articles and speeches can also be primary source material, depending on the nature of your research. For an archive of news stories, one of the best sources is LexisNexis (described below), and, of course, newspapers themselves (click here for a listing of some sources of international news).
Academic, government-sponsored, and some commercial databases are the most reliable sources of scholarly articles, academic books, and primary source materials, but the worldwide web also has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of other useful sources and sites. The trick, however, is to find some way of shifting through all these sites to find relevant, reliable, and useful information. To help guide you through some of these sites, I have created a series of web pages on important areas and topics/subjects in global and comparative politics.
Knowing where to search and knowing how to search (or how to find specific information) are two very different things. While there is no general recipe to follow, it is important to be creative and persistent. If you conduct a few cursory searches--using a few general search terms--and don't find anything particularly useful, it doesn't mean there's nothing available. In fact, there may be a huge amount of material that you simply failed to find because you did not use the "right" search terms, the best databases and/or the best search engines for your particular topic. There are, fortunately, a number of good guides for conducting internet searches. One of these is by Robert Harris, Internet Search Tips and Strategies. Most major search engines also have basic guides, including Google Help Center (also try Gary Price's Tips for Searching Google).
Once you find even a handful of good sources, one of the best ways to find more relevant information is simply to read through the material you have carefully and see what sources are cited. Scholarly articles are particular important in this regard, for they will almost also include a bibliography or reference list. But don't forget to look at tables, illustrations or figures (which should list a source). And, even more basically, as you read through the material and focus on finding key words, terms, phrases or names that you can use as search terms. Then plug these in to a search engine and see what pops out.
Evaluating Internet Sources. If follow all the steps above, finding enough good resources should not be a problem. It's also critical to keep in mind, though, that not all sources are created equal. In other words, you also need to be able to evaluate critically the information you have, and, when applicable, know how to use it correctly for an analytical assignment, examination, or research project--or even just for general knowledge. Wikipedia, for example can be a tremendous resource; yet, it also be a tremendously unrealiable resource since anyone--regardless of their motives, background or knowledge--can create and edit entries. In using a source such as Wikipedia, therefore, you must exercise caution and judgement.
Click here for a basic primer on evaluating Internet research sources (also posted and created by Robert Harris). The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire also provides a useful guide called the Ten C's for Evaluating Internet Sources. Two others sources are Evaluating Web Information for Credibility (a links page) and Stanford Web Credibility Research--thanks to Dr. Gene Shackman for the recommendation)
Presenting Research. Once you've completed your research project, of course, you will want to present your results. Most often, this is in the form of a basic paper, but sometimes you will need to present your results graphically. For tips on how to do this, you should visit Dr. Gene Shackman's Presenting Data Graphically, Presenting Results page
useful databases (available through the library)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only CSLA students with a current NIS account will be able to access the databases listed in this section. If you don't have an account, you need to sign up for one as soon as possible.
EBSCO Host | Full-text articles or abstracts for dozens of journals related to global and comparative politics can be found online via the EBSCO Host Academic Premier Database. This is one of the most comprehensive databases available, with access to over 4,250 journals and magazines (click here for a list of titles). Click her to read nore about the Academic Search Premier database EBSCO also maintains a related database--the Military & Government Collection--that contains current news pertaining to all branches of the military and government,. The Military & Government Collection provides cover-to-cover full text for nearly 400 journals and periodicals and indexing and abstracts for more than 500 titles (click here for a list of titles).
Project MUSE | A smaller but growing database is Project MUSE. This database includes a number of country-specific and regional journals that of are particular value to students of comparative politics: Africa Today, China: An International Journal, China Review International, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, The Contemporary Pacific, Cuban Studies, Journal of Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, and Latin American Politics and Society. In adddition to these Project MUSE has several important journals for students of international relations and global politics, including: Global Environmental Politics, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Democracy, Journal of Cold War Studies, SAIS Review, the Washington Quarterly, and World Politics.
J-STOR | Another relatively small, but extremely important database for students of global and comparative politics. Among the more important journals contained in its collection are: African Affairs, African Studies Review, Bulleting of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Journal of Moderna African Studies, Asian Survey, Chian Journal, China Quarterly, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Japanese Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Pacific Affairs, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Latin American Studies, Latin American Perspectives, Latin American Research Review, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Report, Comparative Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Studies Quarterly, International Migration Review, and Theory and Society.
LexisNexis | The LexisNexis database includes full- text articles from hundreds of newspapers (domestic and international), business and legal magazines, as well as Federal and State court cases, annual reports, entertainment news, and much more. You can also access speeches and other addresses given by prominent government officials and politicians.
Article First | One of the most comprehensive databases available through the library with coverage of over 16,000 periodicals across a broad range of disciplines. Article First, although not full-text, will automatically link you to full-text databases such as EBSCO Host, J-STOR and others. If the library does not have a full-text link, Article First will take you directly to Inter-Library Loan, where you can order the article for delivery.
CIA World Factbook | The CIA World Factbook is a basic, but very useful source of political, economic, demographic, geographic, and other factual information about every country and political entity on earth. You can easily find up-to-date information about any country, and access reference maps, national flags, and so on. An NIS account is not required to access this site. Another similar database is provided by CountryWatch, which "provides critical country-specific intelligence and data to over 4000 clients including public and private sector organizations with overseas operations and global interests."
|Columbia International Affairs Online | Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) is the most comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. It publishes a wide range of scholarship from 1991 onward that includes working papers from university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, books, journals and policy briefs.
Amazon.com is an unconventional but very useful research source for finding books and articles. Just use Amazon.com's basic search tool to browse certain subjects, issues (e.g., "terrorism," "capitalism," "poverty" and so on), or authors. Also, make sure to use the "explore similar items" and "Look for similar books by subject" features. These are very useful ways to find material for which you may not have otherwise thought to search. When you find an interesting book, you can then look for it in our library's catalog, or, if not there, order it for free through interlibrary loan. Of course, Amazon.com also allows you to buy most books you find on its site. Bargain hunters can search for used books on Amazon.com, or use other sites, of which Half.com and ABEbooks are good alternatives. Use the search box below to search Amazon.com right now.
National Security Archive at George Washington University. I encourage students, whenever possible, to use primary source documents in their research. Unfortunately, for students of world and comparative politics, this is sometimes a difficult thing to do, especially if you are interested in examining the motives behind government policy. There is, however, one particularly good source available now: The National Security Archive, which is hosted by George Washington University. This is a wonderful site for research and encourage you all to spend some time going through the material, even if you do not need to for a particular research project. The archive covers special topics--such as the Deep Throat File, September 11th, The Posada File, Nixon and the FBI--and includes documents in selected areas: Europe, Latin America, Nuclear History, China and East Asia, U.S. Intelligence, Middle East and South Asia, Humanitarian Interventions, and Government Secrecy. To help find materials, the site also contains a Guide for Researchers.
The Avalon Project. Another important source of primary source material is the Avalon Project hosted by Yale Law School. The site contains a huge range of documents--from pre-18th century to the present--relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy, and government. Click here for a list of major topics. A newer, companion site is Project Diana, which is an online human rights archive.
United Nations Development Programme | Human Development Reports. The annual HDR by the UNDP is the best source of data on human development. The reports provide economic, social, political, demographic, educational, and health-related data about most countries in the world. All data and statistics are accessible for free on the HDR website and individual country- and region-reports are also available in a fully-searchable database. Important and useful analysis is also provided in the annual reports.
|The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). Hosted by the University of Maryland, PIPA provides up-to-date public opinion survey results and analysis on a wide variety of issues related to international issues, such as the role of the US in the World, the UN, UN Peacekeeping, foreign aid, the IMF, US defense spending, humanitarian intervention, global warming, NATO expansion, and European unification. It is one of the best, if not the best, site for public attitudes, both within the United States and abroad, on important issues of global significance.|