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Political Science

This guide is dedicated to research in Political Science.

Finding Political Science Articles for PSC 101

When taking this course, you will be asked to research and locate articles that are very specific to the field of Political Science. Below are some tips to help you find articles on political science topics:

  • Try to use terms used frequently in the field of political science like "rights," "laws and "civil"

  • Also use terms that are directly relevant to your topic (i.e. "immigration," "emigration," and "refugee" could all technically be used to describe the same situation, but have significantly different connotations)

  • Use Political Science specific databases such as CIAO and GPO to find relevant information

  • When using a multi-subject database like OmniFile, look at the Journal before you read an article. An article that is on your topic, but is published in a medical or religion or education journal, may not provide the type of viewpoint and information that is helpful for your research

  • When using the database JSTOR, use the advanced search to enter your search terms and scroll down the page to select Political Science journals

  • When using the database ProjectMUSE, use the advanced search to enter your search terms and use the Research Area limiter on the left to select the "Social Sciences" and then "Political Science" options to narrow your search

Encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries and other reference books can be a great place to start your research. They will:

  • Give you the background information you need to start researching unfamiliar concepts
  • Help you to narrow your topic down to a manageable research question
  • Provide fast, reliable sources for definitions, facts, and statistics.

Empirical v. Normative articles

When doing research, you will probably be asked to find both Empirical and Normative articles on a political science-related topic. What is the difference between these two?

Empirical articles examine how things are. In other words, they examine the facts of what exactly happened, or is happening, and what are the factors that caused this to happen. An example of this is a study examining the impact of campaign spending on election results. This study examines the facts of what happened (election results) and the factor(s) that may have influenced it (campaign spending). Here are some helpful tips for locating empirical articles.

Normative articles examine how things ought to be. In other words, they examine whether the event that has happened/is happening is morally or ethically right or wrong. An example would be a study examining whether the influence of money in campaigns is good or whether it goes against American values like democracy and open elections. Essentially, normative articles pass judgment on whether an event or situation is good or bad.

Ways to tell the difference:

  • Does the article use words like "should" "bad" "negative" "positive" "argue" or other similar words? Then it's probably passing judgment and is a Normative article.
  • Does the abstract of the article discuss details of a "study" or "observations" or "analysis"? If so, then the article is probably Empirical.
  • Does the article itself have sections labeled "Methodology" and "Results"? If so, then it's probably Empirical.
  • Does the article seem to be trying to persuade the reader or trying to promote one side of an argument over another? Then it's probably a Normative article.

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