Pick a research topic
- Read your assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Identify key concepts of your research topic
- Need extra help? Try Choosing an essay topic
- Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- Using Wikipedia wisely (video)
Identify key concepts
Subject specific dictionaries and encyclopedias are useful for helping you figure out the jargon of a discipline and can give quick overviews of a topic to get you started. You can often pick up keywords to use in your search strategies from these sources:
- International dictionary of public management and governance
- International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences
- Language of Canadian politics
- Oxford Reference Online
- Routledge Encyclopedia of International Relations and Global Politics
- The Canadian Encyclopedia
Developing a good search strategy is important
- Search strategies and Omni video
- Search strategy mapping exercise
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- what aspect of the topic is of interest to you?
- 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? climate, population, government, geography, etc.
- and each new discovery may mean you need to restart your search process
- Some suggested subject headings or keyword search terms:
- public policy
Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a boolean search.
For example: "environmental policy" AND (evaluation OR assessment) AND canad*
- putting quotes around a multi-word phrase will search specifically for those words, in that sequence
- the brackets keep together a variation in phrasing
- the * will look for alternate endings/spellings
- AND/OR will modify a component to narrow or expand your results (the capitalization of AND/OR varies from database to database, it is better to get in the habit of capitalizing them)
Use database filters to narrow down and focus the results you find. For example:
- books, or Journals, or Scholarly and/or Peer Review
- Publication Date (past 5 years?)
- PAIS Index
- Canadian Public Documents Collection
- Policy File Index
- Policy Commons
- Conference Board of Canada e-Library
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
Good to know:
- Use RSS Feeds or Create Alerts to have citations sent to you as a database is updated. Search Alerts can be set once you're logged into Omni's My Library Account as well as in most databases. They can help researchers stay current with automatic e-mail alerts
- Within a database, limit your search to scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles when it is appropriate to disregard other resources.
- Never limit to full-text only as we may subscribe to the journal you find from another vendor. Use the Get it! icon to search for the full text when it is not immediately available.
- For additional relevant databases, look at the Subject Guides that best relate to your topic, such as Political Science, Economics, Law, Communication and Media Studies, etc.
Grey literature is an important source of information for research in public policy that:
- adds a valuable global perspective
- provides detailed overviews on specific populations
- may be only source of local information
Grey literature is defined as "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing" ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." —ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997. Expanded in New York, 2004
- Grey Literature Guide (Carleton Library)
- Policy Commons
- Omni (the Library's main search engine) (narrow results by resource type)
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- Google Scholar (change country, for example, to find international material)
- Databases such as Canadian Business & Current Affairs and Web of Science
- Business Source Complete (select publication type "Grey literature")
- Think Tanks guide
- Government information guides
- Government News - Government of Canada Press Releases
- Key Newspapers - Globe and Mail, National Post
- News Magazines - Economist, Hill Times Online, Maclean's
- Audio and Video Clips - CBC News, CPAC, CTV News, Radio Canada, TVA Nouvelles
- Key News Databases
Public Policy Collections and Working Papers
- Canadian Public Documents Collection (1996-2019) - publications in the area of Canadian public policy, health and medical research.
- 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
- Social Research and Demonstration Corporation - develops, field tests, and rigorously evaluates new programs
- Think Tank Search from Harvard Kennedy School
- Think Tanks and Policy Centres from the University of Calgary Library
- The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)
- poliTwitter.ca -the Canadian political twitter & social media site
- iPolitics - is independent, non-partisan and committed to providing timely, relevant, insightful content related to political developments in Ottawa and the provinces. Database is free for students.
Theses and dissertations
- Theses Canada / Thèses Canada
- Dissertations and Theses Global Covers all the same theses from the former Dissertations & Theses Full Text (full-text of North American theses) and Dissertations & Theses: UK and Ireland (selected full-text, others may be found in the EThOS database listed below) plus it now adds more international coverage of some European and Chinese theses.
- Dissertations and Theses@Carleton (a subset of the full Dissertations and Theses database)
- EThOS The UK’s national thesis service, provides a record of all doctoral dissertations with a growing number of them in full-text
- Foreign Doctoral Dissertations
Further Grey literature resources
What is the Difference Between Data and Statistics?
Data are the raw materials out of which statistics are produced, usually available as digital files for manipulation in statistical software. Statistics are facts or figures that tend to be aggregate counts, totals, sums, or averages.
- use the Data Services searches to find data holdings for energy related data
- Statistics Canada
- CANSIM II (Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System)
- Open Data Repositories: Canada, International