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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100P7: US Campaigns and Elections: Research - The Basics

Best Databases for Political Science and International Affairs Research

Background Information on US Elections

The Research Process

Research is a step-by-step process. Here are some procedures you might want to keep in mind:

Step 1. Identify Your Topic

  • Read your assignment carefully to make sure you know what you need to do to complete it.
  • Talk to your professor if you are unsure about your topic.
  • Make sure your topic is not too broad (so much information you can't even begin to cover it in a single paper) or too narrow (not enough information or resources available for you to understand and write about your topic).
  • Most importantly, pick a topic you find interesting!

Step 2. Obtain Background Material on Your Topic

  • Subject encyclopedias and other reference works can be useful in locating background information.
  • Background on your topic can help you understand and refine your topic and find the best words to use in your searches.
  • Check out the "Background Information" box in the left-hand column for a couple of suggestions.

Step 3. Find Books

  • Use the "Search the Catalog" search box on the "Search Quest and the Catalog" tab to look for books in the library's collections.
  • This will include the books on the shelves in Simpson Library as well as thousands of eBooks.

Step 4: Find Articles

  • The "Best Databases for Political Science and International Affairs Research" box on the upper-left side of this page has links to some specific databases that you may find helpful.
  • Quest, the library's discovery tool, allows you to search across many of the library's databases. The "Search Quest and the Catalog" tab has a search box for Quest.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Sources

  • Think about what kind of resources are the best for your research. Do you need scholarly sources?
  • This page about Types of Sources will help you identify them.
  • You may also want to refer to this page on Evaluating Resources.

Step 6: Cite Your Sources

  • Don't forget that you will have to cite and document the sources you use.
  • See the UMW Libraries' guide to Citing Resources for more information.
  • Both the library and the Writing Center can help you in citing resources correctly.