LOOP » Research by Discipline » Political Science

Background Information | Scholarly Information & Peer Review | Primary & Secondary Sources | Searching for Books | Searching for Articles | Finding Articles | Reading Articles | Citing Your Sources | Off-Campus Access | RefWorks | Asking for Help |

Things to Remember!

Contact Prof. Jane Cramer,
your Political Science Librarian, for help!



Background Information

An excellent place to start researching a new topic is by getting an overview or even in-depth background information.  Some good sources for this include:

United States Politics (local, state, and federal government): 

 International politics: 


Scholarly Information & Peer Review

Scholarly information is based in scholarship and research, and is produced by the scholars or experts in a particular field.  Much scholarly material that is published in books and academic journals goes through the peer-review process in which a manuscript is reviewed by independent researchers (referees or peer-reviewers) to evaluate the contribution for authority and accuracy.  You can read more about the difference between scholarly journals, popular or opinion magazines and trade publications here.

Primary & Secondary Sources

Students will need to use both primary and secondary sources when conducting research on historical topics.  Primary sources provide firsthand evidence of historical events. They are generally unpublished materials such as manuscripts, letters, photographs, maps, artifacts, audio and video recordings, oral histories, postcards, and posters. In some instances, published materials can also be considered primary sources, such as newspapers articles written during the time period being studied.  In contrast, secondary sources, such as textbooks and journal articles, synthesize and interpret primary materials.

One of the best ways to locate primary sources is via secondary sources.  Primary sources, or excerpts from primary sources, may be reprinted and/or cited in secondary sources such as books and journal articles.  This is an excellent way to determine which primary sources will be most relevant for the research topic you are studying.  Primary sources may also be located via the following:

Searching for Books

You use the library catalog to search for books atall CUNY libraries.  If our copy of a book is checked out, you can have it delivered from another CUNY school by clicking the Request a Copy button.

Basic Search Types in the Catalog  (Click on Guided Search for advanced search options.)

All Fields
Search for your terms in the subject, title and author fields.
e.g.  “United States” and “presidential elections” Tip:  Connect two or more keywords with and.
e.g.  “New York City” and “politics”
e.g. “Education” and “legislation”

Tip:   Find books with title and author as key terms.
                                                                Tip: Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase.

Title begins with...            
Use when you know the exact title of a book.
e.g. meaning of freedom(not the meaning of children) Tip: Do not use initial articles (a, an, the, la, les etc.).
e.g. future of us all Tip: Type just the first words of a title, e.g. this search returns: the future of us all: race and neighborhood politics in new york city

Author, last name first...                            
Use when you do not have a book title, or you want to find other books written by an author.
e.g.  davis angela                     Tip:Always type the author’s last name first.               
e.g.  orwell george              
e.g.  chomsky noam

Subject begins with...        
Search the Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) for your topic.  
e.g. Political Science
e.g. Political Science—Arab Countries—History
e.g. Locke, John, 1632-1704 Tip: Use subject if you are looking for books about an individual’s work/life. Tip: If you do not know the exact subject heading, try keyword subject or ask a librarian.                                                         

Keyword title…
Search for your terms anywhere in the title. Placing quotes around key terms in the title of a item can help you locate it in the catalog.

“right to privacy”                            
e.g. “child labor”                         
e.g. “European Union”
                                                      Tip:Use when you don’t know the exact title.   

Keyword subject
Search for your terms anywhere in the subject field.
e.g. “republican party”
e.g. “New Deal”                           
e.g. “Treaty of Versailles”
                                                Tip:Use when you don’t know what the subject terms are.   

Searching for Articles

The best way to find published, scholarly articles on your topic is to use an article database, which allows you to search by topic and see in which journal and in which issue an article appears.  Some databases (such as Academic Search Premier and Lexis-Nexis) cover journals in many fields, while others (such as America: History & Life, Biological Abstracts, or ERIC) only cover journals in a specific field.

Choosing a Database
Library databases can be found on the library’s home page http://library.brooklyn.cuny.edu under Research àArticles & Databases

To access library databases from home, (see also the last page of this handout for further information).


The following is a list of the library databases most frequently used to find articles for Children and Youth Studies. 



Search Tips for Library Databases

Consider Your Topic

Having a clear, manageable topic for your research is key to research success.   As you think about your topic, consider how you can specify the search terms during the research process.







The United States





North America

South America

President Barack Obama

President Abraham Lincoln

Hugo Chavez

Prime Minister Tony Blair

Angela Davis

Margaret Sanger

Republican Party

Democratic Party

Socialist Party

Communist Party

Labor Party

Executive Branch

Judicial Branch

Legislative Branch



Consider Keywords

Be aware that there may be more than one term that means the same thing, or something very similar.


For example, if you were doing research on “youths,” you might also consider using the words “children” and “adolescents” as you search for information.


Consider Descriptors (controlled vocabulary)

Many databases also use specific terms called descriptors that are assigned to articles on that topic.  Once you know the descriptors for your topic it can make it easier to pull all articles on the same topic together at the same time. You will find descriptors in database results.


Combine Terms

Once you identify the terms (keywords or descriptors) applicable to your questions, put them together with Boolean operators such as AND (for more precision in your search), OR (to enlarge the pool of results when more than one situation is concerned), or NOT (to exclude possible elements that might jeopardize quality for quantity in your results.)


For example, if you want to know “How did the Internet change the laws that govern an individual’s right to privacy?” your terms might be



“Right to privacy”

“laws or legislation”


And your search might look like this:

“Internet” and “Right to privacy” and “laws or legislation”


Each database has its own thesaurus to organize articles on certain topics. Take a look at the database’s thesaurus to see if it uses a different term if your search does not yield enough results on your topic. 


*It is recommended to put quotes around search terms that are phrases (contain more than one word).  For example, placing quotes around “reading strategies” will locate articles for you in the databases containing the phrase “reading strategies.”

Consider Your Results

Once you do a search in a database, look at the results – are they what you expected? 

Remember – research is complex and can sometimes be frustrating!  Try to approach it as an opportunity to learn – and don’t expect to find everything you want right away!


Here are a couple of online tutorials that further explore the techniques in database searching:

Finding Articles

Full Text in an Article Database
Some databases provide the full text of some or all articles.  If available, you can most likely download, print or email the article right then and there. Look for the words PDF, PDF Full Text, HTML Full Text, or Linked Full Text somewhere around the citation to the article.

Locating Full Text via FindIt@CUNY Button
If you identify an article where full text is not available, try the Findit@CUNY Button.  FindIt@CUNY opens a new window, and indicates if your article is available full text in another database that the Brooklyn College Library subscribes to. If it is, simply click the “Full Text Online” link to access the full text.  If it is not available full text online, one of the options is to search the catalog to see whether the Library has it in print and/or to request the article via Interlibrary Loan.

Identify Full Text Online Journals via the E-Journals Finder
The E-Journals tab will enable you to determine whether the Library subscribes to a particular journal online e.g. Early American Studies.
First: Click on the E-Journals tab on the Library’s home page.
Second:  Do a title search for your journal title in the Search for e-journal by title search box.  If we do have an online subscription, then you can link directly to it by clicking on the database provided.  Note that years of coverage differ among databases, so check your citation.

Identify Print Journals in the Library Catalog
Go to the Library Catalog Journal Title Search module search for "Journal Titles” in the CUNY system.
Second:  Do a Title begins with search for your journal title in the catalog.  If we do have a subscription, click on Brooklyn to make sure we have the issue you need. 

Find Full Text Online with a Web Search
Search Engines:
You can try searching for your article in your favorite search engine:  Google, Bing, etc. — you never know!  However, in many cases the full text is only available for a fee.  Be sure to check the library’s holdings before you pay for any articles!
Search Tip: Put the article title in “quotes” so it is searched as a phrase.  Try adding the author’s last name.
Results Tip: You may be able to locate an article, but it may not be free.  Consider the other options, including Interlibrary Loan, before paying.

Google Scholar: Google’s tool for searching scholarly literature usually returns an assortment of citations, links to abstracts, and links to full text. While many full text articles it links to are NOT free, Brooklyn College is part of the “Library Links” program that will link you to full text we subscribe to — so be sure to turn on library links in Scholar Preferences and link to Google Scholar from the library’s website so you are authenticated.

Can’t Find Your Article?  Here are a few things you can do:

Ask a Librarian for help.  In person at the Reference Desk (1st floor); Via telephone at (718) 951-5628; Via Chat Reference

Check to see if another CUNY or NYC library has the journal you’re looking for, and then go get it.  The library catalog will show you journal holdings at other CUNY schools.  You can then visit the CUNY school where you article is located.  Remember to bring your Brooklyn College Identification Card if you visit another CUNY school’s library.  You can also check the catalogs at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library.

Request the article via Interlibrary Loan.  Stop by the Reference Desk on the 1st floor for more information, or fill out the form online. Just remember that an ILL request for a journal article can take some time (although it’s often available within a few days)—so this won’t work if you need it immediately.  And be sure to check the Brooklyn College Library’s holdings first!

Access resources through Academic Libraries of Brooklyn (ALB). The Academic Libraries of Brooklyn (ALB) is a consortium of eight academic libraries in Brooklyn.  This cooperative program allows students, faculty and staff of any ALB member library to use the resources of the other member libraries, including reading and borrowing privileges.  You need a current Brooklyn College ID and an ALB card to gain access to ALB member libraries.  To obtain a card, consult a librarian at the Reference Desk.

Access resources through METRO. The Brooklyn College Library belongs to METRO, a New York regional cooperative with over 250 member libraries.  For a membership directory, click here.  Thanks to METRO, the Brooklyn College Library can provide you with occasional on-site access to these collections when your research requires it.  A METRO card referral is issued by a reference librarian for the use, at a private university such as NYU or Columbia, of a specific book or journal that is not attainable at CUNY, through ILL, or in the public library.  Under another METRO agreement, under very special circumstances, a subject collection may be consulted for a short period.  A METRO referral does not allow the borrowing of the material.  For policies of individual libraries, please consult the library's web site.

Reading Articles

Structure of a scholarly article: Familiarity with the standard parts of an article, what the intent and purpose are of each, will make reading articles easier. This can be especially helpful for scanning an article to see if it is one you want to read more carefully.

Abstract – a summary of the purpose, methods and conclusions that can help you decide if the article is relevant to your research. 

Introduction – provides a general overview and background of the study.

Literature Search – a review of research in the area up to the time of the study, giving additional background information and placing the study in its scholarly context.

Materials and Methods – This part is an elaboration of the procedures undertaken from start to finish, focus of the study, and how data are collected and organized to complete the experiment. 

Results – a presentation of data gathered in the study, usually with some analysis.

Discussion – the author’s interpretation of the results of the study and the conclusions they draw from them.

References – listing of journal articles and other sources referred to by the author in preparing for the study.  The references can be an extremely useful way to find additional sources for your own research.

Helpful resources for learning how to read scholarly articles more effectively are:

Short video from Purdue University Libraries

Short PDF paper from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Citing Your Sources

In scholarly writing, we are continually engaged with other people’s ideas: we read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class, and incorporate them into our own writing. As a result, it is very important that we give credit where it is due. Plagiarism is using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use:

adapted from: Indiana University Writing Tutorial Services http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml

Citation Help: For more on how to write, and cite your sources, try the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) or the excellent Research and Documentation Online.

Off-Campus Access

To use subscription resources from the Brooklyn College Library while off-campus you must authenticate (i.e. log in) using your BC email username and password.  When you are off campus and select any licensed electronic resource you will be presented with an authentication page requesting your login.

Students may obtain their BC email ID and password from within BC WebCentral.

Students can get their Brooklyn College student email username and password online at the BC WebCentral Portal <http://portal.brooklyn.edu/>. Clicking on the "My Info" tab, you will find your student email ID. 

  • Student email IDs assigned Summer 2014 or later are your CUNYFirst user ID followed by @bcacad.local, like this: joe.doe01@bcacad.local.
  • Student email IDs assigned before Summer 2014 are made up of 2 letters and 4 numbers
    (e.g. BC1234).

Your authentication password is your BC email password, which depends on when you enrolled at BC:

  • If you enrolled in the college starting Summer 2014 or later, your password is the month and day of your birthday plus the last 5 digits of your CUNYFirst EmpID. The format is MMDDEEEEE.
  • If you enrolled in the college starting Summer 2008 or later, your email password is the month and day of your birthday plus the last 5 digits of your Student ID number (SSN). The format is MMDDSSSSS.
  • If you enrolled in the college in Spring 2008 or earlier, your email password is your full 9-digit Student ID (SSN).

For more detailed instructions, please see the WebCentral Help page on accessing your email information.

Faculty and staff members use their BC email information to authenticate themselves.

For faculty and staff who do not have a Brooklyn College email account, an application may be downloaded at: http://infotech.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pdf/emailapp.pdf. You may download the Adobe Acrobat Reader for free at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.

In the space provided, enter your BC email ID and password to access electronic databases from off-campus.

Problems with authentication should be reported to the ITS Help Desk. If you cannot get past the login screen for off-campus access to electronic resources, even if you know you're entering the correct BC email ID and password, you've probably been locked out of the EZ-Proxy server.  This is common if you attempt to log in unsuccessfully too many times.  In this situation, please contact the ITS Help Desk by calling (718) 677-6180 or emailing helpdesk@brooklyn.cuny.edu.  (Please note that the Help Desk's regular hours of operation are 9 AM to 5 PM on Mondays through Fridays.)


 RefWorks is an online tool that allows you to:

The first time you use RefWorks, you will need to set up an account (see below).

 Learn to Use RefWorks

Create a RefWorks Account

  1. Go to http://library.brooklyn.cuny.edu and click “Databases”
  2. Select “RefWorks” from the alphabetical list
  3. Click “Sign up for an Individual Account”
  4. Complete the New User Information Form:
    1. Enter your name
    2. Create a login name for yourself
    3. Create and confirm a password
    4. Enter your Brooklyn College email address
    5. Indicate if you are an undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty member, etc.
    6. Indicate your major
    7. Type the code you see on your screen
    8. Click “Register”

Note: You must use your Brooklyn College email address.  If you don’t know your BC email address, you can find it in BC WebCentral Portal (http://portal.brooklyn.edu/) by clicking on the “My Info” tab.  Also: If you copy and paste your BC email address from BC WebCentral Portal to the New User Information Form, make sure there are no extra spaces at the end of your address.  If there are extra spaces, delete them.

Asking for Help

Reference (during open hours): 718-951-5628

Ask-a-Librarian online chat 24/7: Click to instantly chat with a reference librarian anytime, any day.

Reference Desk: You can always come to speak in person to any librarian at the Reference Desk during library opening hours.

Research Consultation: For in-depth research assistance, contact Prof. Jane Cramer, the Political Science librarian, to set up an appointment.