Responsive image

Political Science Search Tips and techniques

Search Steps

Research is a process that requires patience and thought. There is no check list to make certain you have exhausted every resource and found the best research. There are steps you must take:

1. Determine the problem & define the question to answer

The first step for any research project is to formulate a question you want to answer. Being clear on the question makes it easier to formulate a research strategy for finding the best information about this question.

When starting your research you may or may not have a clear question but by starting with an idea and formulating this idea into a question you will be able to review the literature that have been written on this topic which will likely help you to refine and narrow your questions or give you ideas for new research questions you may not have though about previously.


2. Searching Strategy.

Breaking your topic or research question into keywords the Pull out the words that indicate the main concepts of your topic.

3. Find general background about your research topic.

Start your research with general background resources (Ex: Handbook, textbook and newspaper). This will help you to become familiar with the research history in the area related to your problem/question. Reading general background also helps you Knowing the words experts you will use when you begin searching for information in books and scholarly journals.

4. Use The Library catalog and databases to find and follow the research regarding your research topic.

The library catalog lists all of the resources available at all library locations, including videos, archives, special collections, journal titles, books and electronic journal articles appropriate to your topic. The library subscribes to databases which make it easy for you to find the latest research available.

5. Consider using the Internet to find open access articles related to your topic.

The next step in the research steps is to search for open access articles that are related to your research topic. but you have to evaluate the resources you find on the internet and make sure they are reliable resources. So that It is best to be skeptical when searching the open Internet for scholarly research.

6. Collect, read, evaluate and write what you have learned.

7. Cite the information you have found so that others will be able to follow your research trail.

If your search doesn't return results, it's (normally) because you are searching:

  • With problematic terms

  • In the wrong place

  • For something that doesn't exist

  1. Try different keywords. Don't be afraid to broaden your topic and search for synonyms of your keywords. If your search returned some results, look at those results to aid in brainstorming.

  2. You may want to try your search in a different database.Try searching in a large, multidisciplinary database like Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, or Google Scholar.

  3. If you are still struggling, don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian for help!

If you are getting back too many results:

  • Be more specific with your search terms (Select more specific search terms. Use quotation marks with phrases. Use subject headings instead of keywords)
  • Utilize the search limiters (Search within the Abstract or Title fields specifically. Limit to a certain date range. Limit to certain types of publications)
  • Search within specific database (Instead of searching in the very large, multidisciplinary databases, search in a smaller subject-specific one)

Search Technics


How can you improve your search?  

Answer is come up with multiple search terms and combine them using the Boolean Operators described here:


Combining search terms with AND will:

  • Reduce the number of results
  • Make the search focus more specifically on your topic

Search for "Global warming = 644,440 results on "search in all tool".

Search for "sea level rise" = 731,521 results on "search in all tool".

Search for "Global warming" AND "sea level rise" = 104,345 results more focused on your topic, on "search in all tool".


Combining search terms with OR will:

  • Expand your search and increase number of results
  • Give your search flexibility to find alternate terms

Search for "Global warming= 644,440 results on "search in all tool"

Search for "sea level rise" = 731,521 results on "search in all tool"

Search for "Global warming" OR "sea level rise" = 1,271,616 results that mention either "Global warming" or "sea level rise", or both, on "search in all tool".


Combining search terms with NOT will:

  • Decrease your search results
  • Increase the relevancy of your results by telling the search to exclude certain terms
Search for "Global warming = 644,440 results on "search in all tool"

Search for "sea level rise" = 731,521 results on "search in all tool"

Search for "Global warming" NOT "sea level rise" = 540,129 results on "search in all tool".

  • Quotation marks “ ”: Use quotation marks for exact phrases.

  • ( ) parentheses: Use the minus operator (-) to narrow the search.

  • The wildcard operator (*): return pages with amusement and any other term(s) .

Subjects: Political science