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American Government

Assignment  **  Popular Sources  **  Academic Articles  **  Books


Your research paper for this class will need to be supported by at least 6 sources, at least 4 of which must be academic. For the other 2, you may use newspapers, magazines, and/or a reputable website (but only one source can be a website). Today, you'll learn how to find three different types of political science sources in the library:

1) popular articles;
2) academic (scholarly) articles; and
3) books.

Why use so many types of sources?

While you might often use articles from academic ("peer-reviewed") journals for your research, other types of sources can provide background information, a broader perspective, or other points of view that you can incorporate into your paper.


Finding Popular Articles

Articles in "popular" sources are written for the general public. Popular sources include magazines (e.g., Time, U.S. News & World Report, New Republic) and newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times).

From the library homepage, select the "Articles" tab, then choose "Social Sciences" from the drop-down menu to access the databases listed below.

▪ Academic Search Complete

-start with a broad search, e.g., "Obamacare," "gun control," etc.
- when you get a list of results, notice the suggestions for alternate terms on the left side of the screen under "Subject" and "Subject: Thesaurus Term" (click on these menus to see the options); each of these is a link that will take you to articles that are mostly about that topic.
-from a reasonably-sized list of results (aim for 20-40 or so) click on "Academic Journals," "Magazines," and "Newspapers," to find sources of each type

▪ CQ Researcher

-unsure about your topic? need additional ideas?
1) browse the list of recent articles on the right for the most "timely" topics
2) click "browse by topic" on the left side of the page for articles listed by general category (helpful if, say, you want to research "the environment," but aren't sure where to go from there)
3) type anything you're interested in at the top of the page in the "quick search" box to get ideas for your research
-use the articles for background information
-consult the bibliography to find other good sources


Finding Scholarly Articles

"Peer-reviewed," "scholarly," "refereed," "academic"...these words can be used interchangeably. They mean that a resource has been thoroughly reviewed by scholars and that the information it contains is of high quality. "Academic" sources can include books, journals, critical reviews, analyses, and original research articles.

Click on the yellow "Databases" tab on the library homepage, then notice the options under "Databases by Subject." Which academic departments might be appropriate for your topics? Read the descriptions of the databases in each section to determine where to start (or try Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, and Political Science Complete as starting points.)

**How can you be sure that you have the "right" kind of article?**

If you choose "peer-reviewed" or a similar option when searching in an online database, you can be confident that the results you find are going to be scholarly. But what if you're in a database where it's unclear how to narrow to scholarly results, or the database doesn't let you do that at all?

▪ Check Ulrich's (Databases --> Databases A-Z). Enter the title of the journal and click "search." If it is peer-reviewed, it will have an icon that resembles a referee's jersey.

If you're still unsure or if you have problems verifying the journal in Ulrich's, feel free to ask a librarian or Dr. Whitt.

**Help! There's no link to the full text!**

1. If there's a full-text link in the database you're in, just click on it!

2. If you don't see a full-text link, go to the library homepage and click the "Journals & Magazines" tab. Enter the title of the journal to see if the full text is available somewhere else.

3. If Augustana doesn't own the article you're looking for, click on "Interlibrary Loan" under "Research Tools" on the left side of the homepage. It's free, and you'll usually get the article within 3-5 days.

Finding Books

Use the Tredway Library catalog, ALiCat, to search for books. If you're not finding what you need, repeat your search in I-Share, a catalog of books from the libraries of nearly 80 college & university libraries throughout Illinois. You can request books from any of these other libraries and usually get them within 5 business days. If you leave yourself a few days to receive books from other libraries, you're more likely to find the sources that are most appropriate for your topic.

Hints for using ALiCat & I-Share:

1. The basic search screen will likely be too basic - click on "Advanced Search" to see additional search options that will lead to better results.

2. Stack your keyword search terms to combine them with "and." Example: education AND policy

3. If you find a relevant record, click on the title to see more detailed information. Notice the links next to "topics"; each of these is a hyperlink that will take you to other books about that subject.

4. Browse! You may start to notice that several books you've found in ALiCat are located close to each other on the shelves; books are organized by subject, so head up to that section of the stacks and take a look at other books that are nearby on the shelves.



Need help? Ask a librarian! Visit our help page.


Created by Anne Earel, Research & Instruction Librarian. Updated September 2015.