Department of Political Science, Queens College

How to Research a Political Science Paper
Peter Liberman, Queens College Dept. of Political Science, September 2001

3. Where can college students find the best sources for their research?

Most research at the undergraduate level, due to time and resource constraints, is conducted in the library or using electronic media (via the internet). This does not limit students to stock-taking research projects. Indeed, many a political science professional has written theory-proposing, theory-testing, historical explanation, policy analysis, or predictive works relying on purely or mainly library research.

Of course, your college library is a lot smaller than leading research libraries, lacking not only their immense holdings of journals and books, but also some useful bibliographic tools. But one of the best research libraries in the world is right in Manhattan, the New York Public Library's research branch at 41st Street and Fifth Ave. (The research branch's stacks are closed and its books do not circulate; you must request each book you want and use it in the reading room). In addition, your library subscribes to some powerful on-line bibliographic tools, reference works, and full-text newspapers, policy journals, and scholarly journals. (See below).

Beyond that, there is the public domain world wide web, which contains vast array of information. But students beware: most of the information on the web is useless, erroneous, incomplete, and almost always of lesser quality than published materials. Anybody with a computer can post whatever they want on the web, while publication is a more costly process that tends to filter out material of low quality. As a general rule, it is usually inadvisable to use as a research source information from the world wide web that has not also been published in a reputable press or journal. (The scholarly journals available via the library's on-line subscriptions are examples of the latter).