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PSPS 4000 Capstone Course Guide : Research Guides | UTC Library

Library research for PSPS 4000

Where Should I Search?

There is no one database that will be good for all topics. Plan to search in multiple places, including:

For a complete list of databases relevent to the PSPS field, see the full Political Science and Public Services research guide.

Choose the Best Keywords

Why are keywords important?

By this point in your college career, you have had a chance to search library databases. You understand that you need keywords (not sentences) when you search a database. However, using political science related keywords might be new territory.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Do not use full sentences or questions. Instead, reduce the language you are using down to 2-4 major terms to describe your topic
  2. Avoid misspellings
  3. Academic language will yield more academic results
  4. Overtime, language describing a topic might change. Example: 'capital punishment' and 'death penalty'. 

Where to Find Synonyms

  1. The Internet: Is your search term or concept called anything else? Look it up in an online encyclopedia to find out. For example, in the Wikipedia entry for "hypertension", the synonym high blood pressure is quickly identified in the opening sentence. This is true for most Wikipedia entries for social science and medical terminology. It is Wikipedia, so exercise caution when using this as a background reading source.
  2. Other background sources: You can also easily find synonyms in other background sources, including your lecture notes, textbooks, and print encyclopedias (yes, they still exist!).
  3. Use database subject headings: If you run a search and find a good article, look at the subject terms listed by the database. Use those terms in subsequent searches. 


  1. Start with your research question:
    How do celebrities influence political campaigns? 
  1. Sort out the major terms. In this case:  
    celebrities AND influence AND political campaigns
  1. Make a list of synonyms and related terms for each of your major terms.

    Synonyms and related terms for the word celebrities:

    • actor or actress

    • musician

    • OR search for a specific celebrity (ex. Taylor Swift)

  • Synonyms and related terms for political campaigns might include:

    • a specific campaign (presidential, local, etc) 

    • or campaign year (2008) 

To keep organized while you research, you should start a spreadsheet for yourself. Add columns for the citation (including the URL of the article), and once you read it, track the authors' research question, methods, findings and themes. You will see themes or facts emerge as you read more and more articles. 

Here's an example Literature Review Matrix for you to view. Feel free to go to File -- Make a Copy or Download to access a file for you to edit.

Literature review matrix

SAGE Research Methods

SAGE Research Methods is a how-to database. It is not where you go to find articles, instead, it's where you can find resources to help you become a better researcher. 

Some highlights:

  • Project Planner- provides articles on each step of the research process, from designing a research question to analyzing and presenting results
  • Methods- provides information about the most common research methods used, including surveys, interviews, and observational research
  • Which Stats Test?- provides a short quiz to help you select the write statistical tool for the reserach you are trying to conduct, and provides information about statistics.

SAGE Research Methods has relevant information about using SPSS, conducting interviews, best practices for creating survey questions, and tons of case studies that you could model your own work on.

Research concepts & videos

 Remember, a literature review:

  • Gathers articles that have clear connections
  • Should make clear the importance of the research question, synthesize what we know, don't know, and what the logical next steps in that research area should be. 


Some helpful videos:


Finding Data

Searching Data icon

Data and Statistics Guide

Find data in library databases and freely available resources across disciplines, time periods, and geographies. This guide also provides strategies for searching for data beyond the linked resources.

Finding Newspapers

News icon

News and Newspapers Guide

This guide allows you to find and search current and historical newspapers through the library's subscriptions. 

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