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Political Science: Database Search Tips

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Database Search Tips

TOP TEN SEARCH TIPS   -- applicable in almost all databases

All databases, including Google, are based on what is called "Boolean logic," using the connectors and  or , and to a much lesser extent, not .   If you understand what a database is doing behind the scenes, it will help you devise a better search to find what you need. 

YouTube video that illustrates Boolean logic.

Break your research question into essential key words and connect with AND,  e.g., "What was the CIA's role in the overthrow of Allende?"    becomes    CIA and overthrow and Allende

Brainstorm synonyms and connect with OR, e.g.,  overthrow or coup or defeat

Don’t get stuck on one term if there are other ways of expressing it.

Think about the best databases to use, based on the focus of your research.  Besides Political Science, maybe History or Law or Newspapers would be useful categories to search.  

Use wild card/ truncation symbol (*) to get plurals and variant endings, e.g.,  method*  will find method, methods, methodology, methodologies, methodological     

Use “Advanced Search”  for more control and flexibility.  

Limit to the abstract to help eliminate irrelevant results.

Put quotes around a term that’s a phrase to keep the words together, e.g. “exit poll”  “balance of power”  "rational choice theory"

If applicable, limit your search to “Academic Journals” or “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals”

When you find a good article, always look at the works cited or reference list at the end to help identify other useful articles and books on the same topic.