Public Affairs & Policy Management

This guide is designed for students in Public Affairs & Policy Management, though anyone doing research on public policy may find help here. If you need further assistance, please use the links in the Contact box. I am available by email as well as for virtual meetings.

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
  • Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia

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:

Video: Search strategies and Omni

Search strategy mapping exercise

Developing a good search strategy is important

  • 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 discover may mean you need to restart your search process

Sample search:

  • Some suggested subject headings or keyword search terms:
    • public policy
    • evaluation
    • administration
    • health policy
    • environmental 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, side by side
  • 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?)
  • Discipline
  • Subject


Country Information

eBook Collections

  • Brill E-Books Includes publications covering Middle East and Islamic Studies, Social Sciences, Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and International Law.
  • Canadian Publishers Collection Includes major Canadian University Presses, among them the University of Toronto Press, the UBC Press, Les Presses de l'Université du Québec and McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • Columbia International Affairs Online
  • eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)
  • Ebook Central Fulltext of books from academic publishers, as well as books and reports from Canadian research institutes, government agencies and university centres.
  • Oxford Scholarship Online
  • 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
  • UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004 Collection from University of California Press on a wide range of topics.

See a full list of ebook collections.

Other Library Collections:


Key Databases:

Additional Databases:

Good to know:

  1. Within a database, limit your search to scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles when it is appropriate to disregard other resources.
  2. 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.
  3. Look for the option to set up an RSS feed or to Create an Alert.  You are then notified when a new entry is added to the database that meets your search criteria.
  4. Use the Interlibrary Loans RACER form to request items not held at Carleton’s library.  

Policy Reports

Think Tanks

Citation Searching

Use Web of Science and Scopus to find if a particular author and/or paper has been cited by other authors.


Web of Science
       Select Cited Reference Search from top tool bar.
You have the article
         Randell Hansen and Desmond King, 2001.  "Eugenic Ideas, Political Interests, and Policy Variance... "  World Politics 53.2:237-263. 

       Enter author in cited author box
                 Hansen R*  (use surname, first initial and truncation symbol)          
       Retrieve abbreviation of journal name from list provided, and enter year of publication.  World Polit
Note the option Create Alert to be notified of any future citing of this article.

       Choose Author Search from top tool bar
       Enter author's name and affiliation if known
               Trimble, Linda

Tips for effective searching -

If you find one relevant article for your research it can lead to other relevant papers by the following:

  • using the databases, including the Library search, look to find all papers & books published by the author or co-authors
  • explore the bibliography in the paper for sources
  • using Web of Science or Scopus, look for articles that cite the article you found.    Remember, some databases will also list citing articles but those lists are limited to the current database.  The Web of Science and Scopus are more comprehensive, with coverage from multiple databases. 

News Sources

Tips for Newspaper Searching

The following titles are a small sample of news sources available online through the Library catalogue:


Find theses and dissertations in our databases, starting with:



The library has many data sources available.   Get help at the Research Help Desk (main level), or consult the library guide for Data.

Relevant databases include:

Content last reviewed: October 21, 2020