Skip to main content
Research Guides

PIT POST 70 - Research Methods in Political Studies- Professors Van Sickle Ward and Pantoja- FA 2017

Your Assignment

Welcome! This guide is designed specifically to support you in doing background research for your POST Research Methods class.

The central assignment of this course is a research prospectus – a detailed proposal for an original research project.  Three interim papers have been assigned to aid in completing the prospectus. One of the ways prepare this proposal is to explore empirical articles and compile a literature review.

This library session is to introduce you to library resources in general, as well as more specifically for your research proposal.

Use the menu to the left to find a list of recommended places to start your research and tips and tricks to access and choose your sources. 

Examples of sources you might use include:

Background sources for information on theories;

Books and scholarly articles for secondary sources and empirical articles;

Primary sources (first-hand accounts, data, etc.) for additional information.

See the menu on your left for additional guidance on finding these sources.

Finding Scholarly, Peer Reviewed Articles

When you want to find articles about topics in your area of interest, use the databases for that subject. Lots of things we'll own online, but for the things we do not own online, make sure to place a request for that item through Resource Sharing (ILL).

NOTE: If you already have a citation to an article, search Library Search or the Electronic Journal List instead of a database. Search for the journal title, and if we have the journal, see if we have the date, then (if the article is available online) drill down to to the article level.

Below are just some of our databases. If you are researching a subject which doesn't have a database listed here, check our complete databases list and subject list of databases.


The library’s online catalog (Library Search) does NOT contain all individual articles within periodicals or journals. If you want to find articles on a particular topic or by a particular author, you should use an indexed database. An index is a collection of article citations organized by subject matter. Indexes are compiled by human indexers, who actually read or review each article and then select the subjects covered by the article from a list of established subject descriptors. That is, they use a “controlled vocabulary” in much the same way that the online catalog (Library Search) uses the Library of Congress subject headings for indexing the subjects of books. In fact, if you find a relevant subject heading in Library Search, you can often use it in an indexed database, and vice versa.

Examples of indexed databases include: Academic Search Premier (or any EBSCO database) and Ethnic NewsWatch (or any ProQuest database).


Kind-of like searching Google, full-text databases can be tricky to search and you can end up with thousands of results, many of which aren't relevant to your topic. Since they usually aren't indexed (like the Indexed Databases above), they don't have a common language. This means you need to think about synonyms for your search terms. For example, if you are searching for "Children," and not finding relevant information, try related terms such as "juvenile," "adolescent," etc...

Examples of full-text databases include: JSTOR.

What is an empirical article?

Empirical Articles
NEW! GSU Library Video Tutorial: Empirical Articles

For this assignment you will need to find an article that reviews empirical literature or an empirical article.
What is an empirical article?
An empirical article reports on research conducted by the authors. The research can be based on observations or experiments.   
What types of research make an article empirical?
An empirical article may report a study that used quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables. They may also report on a study that uses qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyze behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or values with few or no numerical data available for analysis
How can I tell if an article is empirical?
•    Check the publication in which the article appears. Is it scholarly? Most empirical articles will be in scholarly journals.
•    Read the article's abstract. Does it include details of a study, observation, or analysis of a number of participants or subjects?
•    Look at the article itself. Is it more than three pages long? Most empirical articles will be fairly lengthy.
•    Look at the article itself. If it contains a subsection marked "Methodology" and another called "Results," it is probably empirical.
How can I search these articles?
There is no quick way to limit your searches only to articles that review empirical studies (or to empirical studies themselves), except in PsycINFO. You will have to do keyword searches, then review article abstracts in order to determine the nature of each. To run keyword searches, use the databases listed on the "Finding Secondary Literature" tab.

Related Research Guides

Social Sciences Librarian

Mary Martin's picture
Mary Martin