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Political Science 194 (Conrad)

Senior Honors Thesis Seminar

Research Access Points & Pathways

1. Search Relevant Databases 

Databases allow you to search across hundreds of academic journals using a single interface. You will need to search multiple databases to address your topic. 

  1. On the A-Z Database page, use the Subject and Database Types menus
  2. Explore reference/works cited pages and cited by literature for relevant article and resources

2. Locate a Bibliography

Bibliographies often point to primary sources. 

  1. Read a secondary source and examine the bibliography.
  2. Search for a bibliography whether through an online catalog (UC Library Searchl) or on the web.

3. Identify an Individual

Locate that individual's papers, works etc.

American National Biography Online: for example, Ronald Reagan

UC Library Search

  • au: Earl Warren (a former governor of California, a former Chief Justice of the United States)
  • locate an author webpage or Google Scholar profile

4. Identify an Organization

Locate documents created by an organization. In catalogs, looks for organizations as authors.

5. Use Google & Popular Sources Strategically 

In many cases, Google is your best starting point for locating statistics and popular sources. 

  • see Finding & Using Websites for strategies to optimize your Google search results, such as domain searching and limiting by filetype. 

Search Strategies by Topic Element

Person / Organization:

  • Does a person, group or organization feature prominently? e.g. Zapatistas


  • Consider that names may have different spellings or informal/formal variations.
  • Consider looking for Subjects or Descriptors used to identify a person or organization once you search in a database. e.g. DE "EJERCITO Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (Mexico)" in American History & Life and Historical Abstracts.


  • Has the place name changed?
  • Does the place have more than one name?
  • Can the place be represented by narrow or broader locations (Las Margaritas > Chiapas > Mexico) or generic names (settler society; dominion; colony)


  • Refer to basic reference materials (e.g. CREDO) for background information on place. Name changes will be traced through history.
  • Brainstorm for for related terms that you already know apply to a specific place e.g. San Joaquin Valley OR Central Valley.
  • Search for an atlas e.g. of world history or a specific place. Search a gazetteer e.g. Columbia Gazetteer of the World.

Time Period:

  • What is the time frame?
  • How is the time period represented? e.g. by a date range, event, or period e.g. Antebellum period in the U.S. / pre-civil War


  • In most databases, the Date limiters refer to the date of publication rather than the date of the event(s).
  • There are some exceptions. For example, America History & Life and Historical Abstracts (both on the EBSCO platform) have a date limiter "Historical period from ..."


  • Is a specific event or a series of events important? e.g. Zapatista rebellion
  • Are you focusing on a specific event which is part of a larger event?
  • Is your event generic? Does it span multiple places/times? If so, on what aspect will you choose to focus? e.g. political rebellion in Latin America


  • Search reference resources (e.g. CREDO) for background, new ideas, inspiration.


  • What are the crucial concepts, ideologies, practices ...?
  • How are these concepts represented in text? e.g. What defines the concept of culture?
  • To what events, organizations, time periods, or other ideas might your concept be associated? e.g. "weapons of the weak",  "national identity", decolonization, "political agency", Ghandian philosophies, Liberation theology, culture, politics


  • Explore general resources or databases with broader concepts and look for additional terms that are affiliated with your original term/phrase.
  • Incorporate new terms as appropriate. Specialized encyclopedia in reference resources may also assist in exploring a concept. e.g. "liberation theology" in Oxford reference. Look for the unlocked green icon.

Searching with Subject Headings

Many databases use controlled vocabulary to describe the indexed resources.  Constructing your search string with a combination of keywords and controlled vocabulary is the most effective way to search a library database. 

Subject Headings in UC Library Search are an example of controlled vocabulary. When you find an item of interest, see what Subject Headings are used to describe the resource and try *new* searches using those headings.  See Examples of Subject Headings and results lists from Melvyl.

Example: Creating Rosie the Riveter: class, gender, and propaganda during World War II is associated with the following subject headings.

subject headings for book