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Political Science: Getting Started

Use this guide to help start your research in Political Science

Books to Consider

Topic Design Steps

1. Review Assignment: What's the assignment? What are the expectations for your work? Are there any specific parameters that you need to be aware of?

2. Brainstorm: Pick a topic that interests you! Do you have a strong opinion on something? Do you have a personal issue, problem, or pastime that you would like to know more about?

Librarian Tip: The research and writing will go by more quickly if you care about the topic you are researching!

3. Find Background Information: Reading an overview of a topic will allow you to better understand the landscape of what you are researching. This in turn will allow you to narrow in on a specific concept that piques your interest.

Librarian Tip: This process also allows you to find common vocabulary used in the field, which offers you keywords for your resource searching. Make a list of these keywords as you are going.

4. Focus Your Topic: Make sure to keep your work manageable by honing in on a specific thesis statement or question.

Librarian Tip: Remember to stay flexible while picking a thesis statement, if a topic is too broad or too narrow it will be hard to research. So keep in mind - picking your topic is research!

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Getting Started: Research in Political Science

Welcome to the Political Science research guide. Use the pages on this guide to learn about:

You can also visit these related guides for more research help:

Create a Search Using Commands

1. Isolate keywords from your topic.

2. Narrow your search results to include both of your keywords using AND.

librarian AND “active learning” AND “information literacy”

3. Continue building onto your search, and expand your options using OR to find similar terms.

librarian AND “active learning” AND “information literacy” AND (student OR researcher)

Combining search terms with AND:

  • Narrows your search, reducing the number of results.
  • Makes the search focus more specifically on your topic.

For Example

A search for librarian yields 172,745 results

A search for “active learning” yields 16,358 results

A search for "active learning" AND librarian yields 1,243 results

Combining search terms with OR:

  • Expands your search and increases number of results.

For Example

A search for student yields 3,698,871 results

A search for researcher yields 1,425,100 results

A search for student OR researcher yields 4,690,553 results

Combining search terms with NOT:

  • Narrows your search, decreasing your search results.
  • Tells the search to exclude certain terms.

For Example

A search for college yields 3,378,136 results

A search for college NOT “high school” yields 2,916,582 results

Use Quotation Marks to:

  • Narrow your search.
  • Combine search terms that are more than single worlds.

This shows the search engine that you want the terms to be found together. The search will look for exactly what you place in the quotation marks, so be sure there are no mistakes.

For Example

A search for information literacy yields 147,695 results

A search for "information literacy" yields 13,038 results


Use Truncation to:

  • Expand your search.
  • Give your search tool flexibility to find alternate endings for your search term.

Search engines match your terms to results; they will not automatically find an alternate version of it. Truncation tells the search to match the root of your term and gives it freedom to find whatever endings it can.

For Example

A search for Librarian yields 172,775 results

A search for Librar* yields 1,887,533 results

These commands are called Boolean Operators.


1. denoting a system of algebraic notation used to represent logical propositions, especially in computing and electronics.

What does that mean for you?

If you are having a hard time finding what you need, use the Boolean Operators outlined here to more efficiently search databases.

No matter where you are searching - the catalog, Google Scholar, a database you will want to use Boolearn Operators to refine your search to your specifications.

We are indebted to the Butler University Library's And/Or/Not box for some of the content displayed here.


Library Workshops

Find and RSVP to all Library Workshops here.

Defining and Preventing Plagiarism: Sources, citations, common knowledge
Learn how to avoid the 10 different types of plagiarism and how to properly cite your sources.

Mendeley Workshop
Learn how to organize your research by using the citation management tool Mendeley. This workshop will show you how to add PDFs and other citations, organize and edit your library, and how to create bibliographies in your desired style (APA, MLA, etc).

PubMed Like a Pro
Learn how to best utilize PubMed, including features like MeSH, alerts, saving searches, and more.

Information Literacy for a Democratic Society
In this time of “Information Overload,” it can be hard to parse out the critical information you need to better engage in the world around you. This workshop helps you develop the skills to find, critically read, evaluate, and track credible sources to become an informed, active, and information literate member of society. Join us for a workshop with the Research Services Librarians to become a more engaged citizen by being information literate.

Research in the "Real World"
Worried about losing access to databases when you graduate? Learn what open access resources are available to you and how to find and utilize free and credible information. 

Research Services Librarian

Brooke Duffy's picture
Brooke Duffy
Sarah Lawrence Library
1 Mead Way
Bronxville, NY 10708

Research Services & Outreach Librarian

Kelleen Maluski's picture
Kelleen Maluski
Sarah Lawrence Library
1 Mead Way
Bronxville, NY 10708

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Please feel free to use the content of this Guide as long as you attribute Sarah Lawrence College Library.