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POLS: Political Science: Starting Points

A guide to research and information sources in political science.

When you are just beginning your research, it is important to spend some time getting more familiar with your topic. Your first few searches should focus on finding background information and also help you to develop your research questions. Sources that provide overviews and introductions can be useful at this stage of research and might include reference encyclopedias, handbooks, or guides, other books and eBooks, news and magazine articles, or websites. Below, see suggestions and advice for where to look for background information and these type of sources. 

Find Background Information

The following library databases contain reference information that can be used to gain familiarity with your topic, gather search keywords, narrow your research question, provide context, or identify experts on the topic. The information you find in these can guide you and give you ideas for further searches. 

Advice for Using Google and Wikipedia for Background Information

At this point in your research, you might also choose to do a general Google search for relevant websites or read Wikipedia articles related to your topic, but you will need to be very cautious as you do so. While this practice can be helpful to see how you might develop your research, narrow your topic, or even give you ideas of search keywords to use, for academic research, it is unlikely that you will want or be able to use or cite any information from a Wikipedia article. Any websites would need to be critically evaluated for credibility, and you will also want to check any source guidelines your professor has given you.