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Political Science Research Methods

Political Science Research Methods

Overviews and Background--Reference Materials

Reference works and handbooks are an important means to help you gather some initial resources, identify concepts, approaches, terminology, and theories, and refine your topic before delving into more detailed research.

What is a literature review?

A literature review provides an overview of the scholarly literature (e.g. books, articles, dissertations, proceedings) relevant to an area of research or theory. The review typically will include a summary of the major questions in a area and critical evaluations of work that has already been done. Literature reviews are also helpful for their comprehensive bibliographies. This webpage by the UC Santa Cruz Library does a good job of explaining lit reviews.

Literature reviews typically include these components:

  • An overview of the subject
  • Organization of relevant publications into subtopics, theoretical areas, or key debates
  • An analysis and discussion of how various works relate to one another the the relevant questions
  • A discussion of unresolved questions or future directions
  • Some will also include discussions of key data collection and analysis methodologies

The following two resources are great places to start when compiling a comprehensive bibliography.

Key Databases

Political Science Complete

 Political Science Complete contains full text for over 450 journals, and indexing and abstracts for nearly 2,100 titles, (including top-ranked scholarly journals). The database also features 330 full-text reference books and monographs, and over 35,000 full-text conference papers. A pro tip is to search for specific methodologies or data sources in your search terms, and fully utilize the filters.


Other Useful Databases

  • Scopus
    • Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature with bibliometric tools to track, analyze and visualize research. It contains over 19,500 titles from more than 5,000 publishers around the world, covering the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities.
  • Econlit
    • Full text for more than 400 publications including titles from the American economic Association such as: American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Literature, and Journal of Economic Perspectives. Can search concurrently with Sociological Abstracts and Political Science Complete.
  • SocIndex
    • Covers major international literature (journals, books, book chapters, book reviews, dissertations and conference papers) in sociology and related disciplines.  Can search concurrently with Econlit and Political Science Complete