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Political Science Library Guide

Research Tools for Political Science

Books Matter

Books and journal articles are the most common way to access scholarly research in your field, but each has advantages and disadvantages.  Books take longer to research, write, and publish, so the information is not as current as in journal articles, which are shorter and slightly faster to publish.  However, because they are longer and took more time to produce, books offer more thorough coverage of a topic, draw on a wider range of preexisting scholarship, and often excel in placing an argument in broader thematic and disciplinary context.

Consider a scholarly book in your own research, and look for the following:

  • Helpful introduction and overview of the topic;
  • Comprehensive literature review, outlining the major scholars and existing points of view on the topic;
  • Detailed study of the topic, usually broken down into manageable chapters;
  • Extensive bibliography to help you and other scholars find related works on the topic.

Subject Headings

The subject headings used in the library catalog to describe political topics are quite regular.  Look for the following subject phrases, and consider using them in your searches:

"Politics and government" - frequently used as a subdivision of a region, country, state, or city. These are often further subdivided by time period.

  • China--Politics and government
  • New Orleans (La.)--Politics and government
  • Mexico--Politics and government--1946-1970.

"Political aspects" - used as a subdivision for concepts or events. These can be further subdivided geographically.

  • Ethnic relations--Political aspects
  • Internet--Political aspects--China
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Political aspects.

"Foreign relations" - used as a subdivision of a country or region to describe its diplomatic relations. These can be further subdivided to indicate time period, or designate a specific country or region.

  • Soviet Union--Foreign relations--1945-1991
  • Egypt--Foreign relations--United States

"Relations" - used as a subdivison of a country of region to describe non-diplomatic relations and influences among places.

  • China--Relations--Africa
  • China--Relations--China--Tibet


Ready to expand your search beyond Howard-Tilton? Use the WorldCat database to search for books, journal titles, audio, video, and other materials in libraries across the country and around the world.  Use InterLibrary Loan (ILL) to borrow items from other libraries!

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