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Political Science & International Relations

This guide provides quick access to the best resources at WU for conducting research related to political science & international relations research

Search Stratagies: Boolean Operators

Combine Search Terms

Article databases use more advanced search syntax than web search engines. Understanding how they are different can make it easier to manipulate your search results.  

Use the Advanced Search option within the database for best results.

AND narrows down your results because it only finds items that include both search terms as a keyword.

Example: college students AND risky behavior

OR expands your results because it finds items that include either one or both search terms as a keyword.

Example: climate change OR climate variability OR environmental impact

NOT makes your results more specific by excluding words that aren't relevant to your search.

Example: renewable energy NOT Solar

Combine each to create a detailed search for very specific resources

Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources

(Refereed, Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles
(Popular) Journal Articles

Scholarly articles are "peer-reviewed" by other experts in the field. Are also sometimes called "refereed articles."

Non-scholarly articles are meant to inform or entertain readers rather than provide in-depth analysis.
Content Content of articles usually reports on original research or experimentation. Content of articles often reports on other research or events rather than presenting original research.
Bibliography Articles usually list references in footnotes or endnotes. Articles are seldom footnoted and the source of information is seldom given.
Illustrations Illustrations, if any, are usually graphs and charts that support the subject content. Often are illustrated with glossy or color photographs.
Author(s) Articles are written by experts in the field. Authors are usually on the staff of the magazine or are freelance writers. Author's name is often not supplied
Length/Depth Articles are generally long and contain in-depth coverage of the topic. Articles are often short and intended to provide an overview of a topic rather than an in-depth analysis.
Advertising Contain few if any advertisements. Usually contain many advertisements.
Publisher Frequently, articles are published by a scholarly professional organization (e.g. American Chemical Society, American Psychological Association). Publishers are marketing to the general public and usually make their publications available in stores and newsstands.
Language Authors write in the language of their discipline. Readers are assumed to have some knowledge of the field. Articles are directed towards the general public and written in non-technical language.


Types of Sources

Access Tools

Access tools help locate primary and secondary sources. Some types of access tools are:

Databases Bibliographies
Subject Guides Online Catalogs
Subject Directories Search Engines


Examples of Access Tools:

  • ERIC - index of educational research
  • WebPAC - online catalog
  • - search engine

There are three types of sources used in research: Primary, Secondary and Access Tools.

Primary Sources

A primary source is a firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. Primary sources are written or created during the time period being studied, or by a person directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event or time period. Some types of primary sources are:

Original Documents Creative Works Artifacts
Diaries Novels Jewelry
Speeches Music Tools
Letters Films Pottery
Meeting Minutes Visual Art Clothing
Interviews Poetry Buildings
Research Data Performing Arts Furniture
Autobiographies Film Footage

Examples of Primary Sources:

  • Diary of Ann Frank - experience of Jews in World War II
  • The Declaration of Independence - United States History
  • Arrowheads and pottery - Native American history

Secondary Sources

A Secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the primary sources. Some types of secondary sources are:

Textbooks Journal Articles Commentaries
Bibliographies Criticism Histories
Encyclopedias Book Reviews  

Examples of Secondary Sources:

  • Thomas Jefferson: A Life - a biography of Thomas Jefferson
  • The Encyclopedia of Education - brief treatments of educational topic
  • Introduction to Psychology - Psychology textbook