Developing a good search strategy is important
Answer the following questions:
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? do they spell it differently?
- when was it relevant? is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your issue? geography, government, people, etc.
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Canada, government,Indigenous, native, Aboriginal, First Nations, Indian, Inuit, Metis, law, knowledge, self-determination
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- law- policy, legislation
- administration, executive
- traditional knowledge, culture and beliefs, experience, social customs and traditions, recorded and oral history, globalization, colonial, settler
- Indigenous governance, self-governance, jurisdiction, intergovernmental relations
Tip: Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms (OR terms must be bracketed)
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation. Sometimes it is represented by a ?
- Canad* AND (law OR policy) AND (native OR aboriginal)
- (identity OR cultur* OR ethnogr*) AND politics
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "traditional knowledge" or "oral history"
TIP: Check the About or HELP pages for each database to ensure you are using the correct Boolean operators for that database.
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').
- Alternative words to use instead of "policy": guideline, initiative, strategy, framework
- For the fullest information on government policy, it is often necessary to search across the full range of government publications.
- The Debates cover arguments for and against policies
- Statutes codify policies
- The Budget sets out fiscal policy
- The Public Accounts track the money spent to realize the policies
- Annual reports (of departments, of programs, on acts) track implementation of policies
- Statistics measure the impact of policies
- Audit reports evaluate policy effectiveness
- News releases announce new directions in policy
- Check the division of powers and responsibilities for different levels of government
- Search globally for your policy topic
Newspapers& Magazines (use Boolean Operators)
- Canadian Newsstream - Canadian
- Factiva - Canadian and international
- Nexis Uni - Canadian and international
- PressReader (Full-image international newspapers)
Explore News Guide for more news-related resources
Public Policy Collections and Working Papers
- How to Write a Policy Brief (training tool developed by IDRC)
- Policy Commons
- Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO)
- Canadian Public Documents Collection (1996-2019) - publications in the area of Canadian public policy, health and medical research.
- Government of Canada (federal level policies)
- Conference Board of Canada eLibrary - Centre for the North, Centre for Food in Canada, How Canada Performs, etc.
- National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Papers
- Policy File Index - Indexes research in U.S. public policy with content from think tanks, university research programs, research organizations, etc.
- Brookings Institute
- Think Tank Search - search limited to think tanks dealing in public policy, including NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
How to write and conduct a literature review
SAGE Research Methods ( supports beginning and advanced researchers throughout a research project, from writing a research question, choosing a method, gathering and analyzing data, to writing up and publishing the findings)
- Conducting a Literature Review
- How to write a literature review (Concordia University Libraries)
- The literature review: a few tips on conducting it (U. of Toronto)
- Literature reviews (University of N. Carolina, Chapel Hill)
- How to research
- Writing literature reviews : a guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences
Finding Literature reviews on your topic
Many dissertations and theses require a literature review. Most of these appear near the very beginning of the dissertation so that the writer can position their work relative to other relevant work in the field.
- CURVE - Carleton's institutional repository. Theses and Dissertations created by Carleton University students.
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- Other Dissertations/Theses databases
- Search OMNI or subject specific DATABASES and add the term "literature review" to your search terms.
Pick a research-tracking method
- Keep track of what you learn from the sources that you use for your writing assignments.
- The low-tech way to keep track of your research sources is to use 3x5 or 4x6 index cards. Use one card per source consulted.
- Note the source's bibliographic information on the top of the card so you'll have the information ready when you need to cite the source in your bibliography. Make your notes on the remaining space on the card.
An electronic form is another good way of keeping track provided by the following universities:
- Research Strategy Worksheet (University of Colorado Boulder)
- Scholarly Research Log (Capella University)
- Keeping Track of the Search (UCLA)
- Cambridge University Press eBooks
- Canadian University Presses
- Oxford Scholarship Online: Political Science
- Scholars Portal Books Fulltext available for books from the following publishers: Springer, Oxford University Press, American Psychological Association, Cambridge University Press, Canadian presses and government and non-governmental organizations
- Wiley Online Library
Why use journal articles?
* They are more up-to-date than most books.
* They are “peer reviewed” by other scholars in the field who check for academic integrity.
* Every article will contain cited references that appear as footnotes and/or bibliographies.
* Print journals cannot be signed out of the Library but many of them are now available in e-format.
Start with OMNI search engine located on the library home page, allows you to search across many of the library's collections simultaneously. Including books, ebooks, journal titles, games, music, videos, maps, and more.
See our list of recommended databases on the Political Science subject guide, which includes:
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- International Political Science Abstracts
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- Google Scholar
- Taylor & Francis Journals Online
For more help check Finding Journal Articles guide
Identify key concepts:
Define and get an overview of your topic or find definitions of key terms and concepts:
- SAGE Research Methods ( supports beginning and advanced researchers throughout a research project, from writing a research question, choosing a method, gathering and analyzing data, to writing up and publishing the findings)
- The Oxford handbook of qualitative research (chapter 13 covers the topic of autoethnography)
- Interview Research in Political Science
- Doing research in political science an introduction to comparative methods and statistics
- Cambridge handbook of experimental political science
- Student guide to research in the digital age : how to locate and evaluate information sources
- Your research project: how to manage it
- The craft of research
- The essential guide : research writing across the disciplines
- Information skills : finding and using the right resources
- Research and writing in international relations
- InterViews : learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing
- A political science student's practical guide
- A Student's Guide for Writing in Political Science
- Conducting your literature review
- Mining social media : finding stories in internet data