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PL SC 439: The Politics of Terrorism

Getting Started with a Topic

Starting your research can be a daunting task. As you complete readings and other activities for your course, remember those topics that interested you most or left you asking the most questions. These topics and questions can be the foundation for your research projects.

This guide will provide information about finding resources, evaluating them, and using them appropriately for your course assignments. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need research assistance as you progress through the semester using the information in my profile box.

 

Developing Keywords

Keywords are the terms you use to search in the Libraries' databases. They distill your complex topic down into its most basic elements. You keywords should not be a sentence. 

Keep in mind that you can try many different keywords and can always look for new ones -- when you find articles, books, or other resources, see what keywords the database uses to describe the article. If you're stuck, these new keywords can help you find more information. 

If you are finding you get too many results (thousands) you may want to try adding a few more keywords to make your search more specific to a country, organization, or time period. If you are not getting any results or only getting a handful of results, try using a fewer keywords, or try some broader terms.

Searching with Quotation Marks

Use Quotation Marks to search for short phrases.

For example: "political violence"

The use of the quotation marks will prevent the database from searching for these words separately. This way, you will avoid results where political is used in one paragraph and violence is used a few paragraphs later, but they are not used together as a phrase. Instead, all results will contain the phrase Political Violence. 

When using quotation marks, it's important that you spell your terms correctly and that you keep the words inside the quotation marks to a minimum -- the database will search for exactly what you've typed as you've typed it. 

Searching with Boolean Operators

You can also use Boolean Operators like AND, OR, or NOT to broaden or narrow your search results. 

For example:

  • Terrorism AND "political violence"
    • Results would include any items that mention BOTH terrorism and political violence
  • Terrorism OR "political violence"
    • Results would include any items that mention terrorism or political violence, but not necessarily both. This is a broader search than an AND search.
  • Terrorism NOT "political violence"
    • Results would include any items that mention terrorism, but do not mention political violence. NOT searches are helpful if there is a similar but unrelated topic to your search. Using NOT can help you cut down on the number of irrelevant results.

Searching with Truncation

Depending on your topic, you may want to use Truncation to improve your search results. Think of the words that come from the root word TERROR -- terrors, terrorist, terrorists, terrorism. Truncation allows us to search using the root word, while the database fills in and searches for the various endings to the word, so we do not have to search for them individually. Truncation allows for a broader search. Each database may have a different truncation symbol, so pay attention to the search instructions for the database if you intend to use it in your search.

For example: terror*

The results of this search would include any items containing the root word TERROR, with any possible endings.