Political Science Library Guide: Overview

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand (or) or narrow (and, not) a search within a database to locate relevant information. Boolean operators are also called logical operators or connectors.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

Or Relationship Image

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain any of the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

And Relationship Image

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

Not Relationship Image

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.

Wild Cards

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character. For instance, in InfoTrac, you can also use the question mark (?) within a word to replace a character. For example:

wom?n will retrieve woman or women

Choose the Right Resource

When choosing resources for your assignment, consider:

  • Assignment requirements—what does the professor want you to cite?
  • Learn about your topic -- You may want to use a reference book like an encyclopedia (print or online) to start out with if you don't have a clear understanding of your topic yet.
  • Time—the more current the topic, the less will be found in scholarly journals or books, which take longer to get published. Recent events will be covered on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, as well as in the media.
  • Depth of coverage and/or the topic—scholarly journals and books cover topics in more depth than magazines and newspapers. Some topics are not covered by the popular press, e.g., research that would not be of interest to the average consumer.
  • Quality of the resource - see Step 3: Evaluating Sources
Type of Information You Need Try These Resources
Does your topic cover current events? Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need general information on a specific topic, written in a non-specialist style?
Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need in-depth information on a specific topic, written for the college student and above by authorities in the field? Scholarly journals
Do you need more detail and/or has the topic been written about for awhile? Books
Do you need an overview, quick facts, statistics on a topic? Reference books, Internet

Evaluating Print and Internet Resources

Library and Internet resources should be evaluated to determine their quality and relevance to your topic before citing them for a research assignment.

Use the criteria below to help you evaluate resources. Note: Titles below marked with an asterisk * are in hardcopy in the Oviatt Library--click the link to get location information.

Jump to: Authority | Content & Coverage | Timeliness | Accuracy | Objectivity | Using URLs to Determine Authority & Objectivity

Authority

Content & Coverage

  • Who is the audience for the publication or Web site (scholarly or general)?
  • Is the information primary or secondary in nature?
  • Does it provide general background information or in-depth information on a specific topic? Which do you need?
  • How extensive is the bibliography or list of cited references? Can you use these references to find more information on your topic?

Timeliness

  • What is the publication date of the book or article?
  • Is there a date anywhere on the Web page, such as date created, last update, etc.?
  • How up-to-date are the citations in the bibliography?
  • How current do you need for your topic?

Accuracy

  • Have other scholars evaluated the resource?
    • Books: Use the sources below to locate book reviews:
    • Articles: How have other scholars evaluated the article in follow-up letters or editorials?

      Letters or editorials in response to journal articles are usually indexed just like the original article. Search keywords from the article title and/or author name using a relevant Library database or ask a librarian to recommend an appropriate database.

  • Can you find the same information in another source?

Objectivity

Determine whether the information is fact, opinion or propaganda.

  • Are there footnotes to show the source of the facts or quotes?
  • Does the publisher have a particular bias?
  • Are opinions or propaganda easy to recognize?
  • Do the words and phrases play to your emotions or bias the content?
  • Are there advertisements that suggest the information might be biased toward selling a product rather than providing objective information?
  • Can you determine from the Web site's address (URL) a particular bias? Often the URL domain's extension (.com, .edu, etc.) gives you a clue about the site.

Using URLs to Determine Authority and Objectivity

Internet address (URL) domain extensions can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. A more complete list of two- and three- letter URL extensions is also available.

.gov

Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.

.edu

Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution.

.com

Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.

.org

Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view.

.net

Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content.

 

Subject Searching

  1. New topics may not yet be included in the database's controlled vocabulary.
  2. Using the appropriate subject heading for a topic will retrieve all items in the database indexed under that topic.
  3. If you do not know the appropriate subject heading for your topic, conduct a keyword search first and look at the subject heading(s) of a relevant item.

Subject Searching Examples

Looking at the results, you would hopefully recognize the book you were seeking (in this case, #2).

  1. Conduct a keyword search using the term "ocean birds"
    You searched for the WORD: ocean birds
      QL673.L73 1984b
    Author: Lofgren, Lars.
    Title Ocean birds: their breeding, biology & behavior / Lars Lofgren.
    Publisher Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, c1984.
    Description 240 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
    Bibliography Bibliography: p.236
    Subject Sea birds.
  2. Once you have a relevant item, check the subject heading.
  3. Now conduct a subject search using the correct subject heading, sea birds.

    You searched for the SUBJECT
    : sea birds.
    23 SUBJECTS found with 37 ENTRIES
    1. Sea Birds---3 related Subjects
    2. Sea Birds- (11 entries)
    3. Sea Birds--Behavior
    4. Sea Bird-Ecology

By selecting #2, you will get a list of all the items on the topic of ocean birds (indexed in the database as "sea birds"). Note also the list of subject headings allows you to locate items on more specific topics as well as related topics.

Keyword Searching Examples

Variety of terms: If you are looking for items on the "movies", use additional keywords such as "film", "films", "cinema", or "motion pictures".

An example of retrieving results unrelated to your topic (false drops): using the keyword "cricket" will retrieve items about the sport as well as the insect.

An example of using keywords to find titles when you are unsure of the exact title:

Both CAGED and BIRD are in 6 titles.
There are 6 entries with CAGED & BIRD.

You searched for the WORDS: bird caged
Found 6 items:

  1. Caged bird medicine : selected topics / Charles V. Steiner (1981)
  2. I know why the caged bird sings (1969)
  3. Many voices. 8A-6B (sound recording) : for Adventures for re (1986)
  4. Maya Angelou / Miles Shapiro (1994)
  5. Poco / by Garry and Vesta Smith; illustrated by Fred Crump (1975)
  6. Voices in Black & White : writings on race in America from H (1993)

Truncation

  • Most databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.
  • Using truncation will broaden your search. For example,

    bank* will retrieve: bank or banks or banking or banker or bankruptcy, etc.

  • Databases and Internet search engines use different symbols to truncate. In general, most of the Library's databases use the asterisk (*) ; however, the exclamation point (!) is used in LexisNexis. Check the database help screen to find the correct truncation symbol.
  • Be careful using truncation. Truncating after too few letters will retrieve terms that are not relevant. For example:

    cat* will also retrieve cataclysm, catacomb, catalepsy, catalog, etc.

    It's best to use the boolean operator "or" in these instances (cat or cats).

Access Databases from Off Campus

Only current CSUN students, faculty and staff can access our databases from off campus. To access the databases from off campus, click the name of the database. You will then see a screen asking you to log in, using your CSUN User ID and password (the same ID and password you use to log in to the portal).

For more information, see Accessing Library Resources from Off-Campus and the Library's Copyright Statement (in particular, the Appropriate Use of Oviatt Library's Electronic Resources section).

Limiting Search Results in the Library Catalog

You may further refine your search results by selecting Limit/Sort Search when it is available.

Basic keyword searches and Advanced searches can be limited prior to submitting the search, or after by selecting Modify Search. Search limits include publication date, language, material type, publisher, and location. Sorting results by year is also an option.

Searching for Periodical Titles in the Library Catalog

You can search by Periodical title by selecting the Periodicals tab on the homepage.

  • The Oviatt Library subscribes to over 1,700 print and over 25,000 online periodicals, which include research journals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • For online periodicals only, select the Search electronic periodicals only check box.

NOTE: The Library catalog offers title searching for periodicals, but not for specific articles. For access to periodical articles, search the databases listed on the Library's Databases by Subject page.

Searching for Videos, CDs, DVDs and Other Media in the Library Catalog

  • Many videos, DVDs, CDs and other media formats held by the Oviatt Library are listed in the Library Catalog and located in Music & Media.
  • Instructional media for K-12 are located in the Teacher Curriculum Center.
  • Search for media by Author (director, screenwriter, producer, artist, composer, etc.) and/or Title. Media can also be searched by topic (see Library Catalog Basic Search).
  • Limit search results to media as follows:
    • For videos/DVDs: In the Basic search screen, change View Entire Collection to Videos/DVD in the pull-down menu.
    • For all media types: In the Advanced screen under "Optional Limits" set the "Material Type" pull-down menu to specify the type of media you want.

What is Plagiarism?

To plagiarize means to:

  • Steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own;
  • Use (another's production) without crediting the source;
  • Commit literary theft;
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of "plagiarize," retrieved June 20, 2005)

Finding Articles in Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

Pick a database recommended for your subject from Databases by Subject and then search using keywords.

To locate the full text of an article:

  • If full-text is available in the database, click on the link to full text (HTML or PDF).
  • If full-text isn't available in the database, click the Find Text button to see if we have access to the article in another database or in print in the library
  • If no Find Text button is available or you didn't find the article through our databases, search for the magazine or journal title using the Journals tab in the library catalog.
  • If the full text isn't available through the Library, you can request an Interlibrary Loan for the article(s) that you need. However, you must allow about two weeks for this!

 

Using Google Scholar

You can find items the Oviatt Library owns using Google Scholar's Find Text capabilities. To activate the capabilities for your browser:

  1. Select Settings in the upper right, then Library links from the left menu.
  2. In the search box, type "CSUN" and select Find Library.
  3. Check the box next to "CSU, Northridge (SFX Find It)"
  4. Then select Save.

Select the SFX Find It at CSUN link (to the right of the article) or the SFX: Additional Options link (located below the article description) for access to online full text, Oviatt Library holdings information, and Interlibrary Loan.