Conducting research in Public Affairs and Administration will require you to engage with information on many different levels, both as a consumer and as a producer of information. The resources and instruction on this guide are designed to help you learn the concepts and techniques that underpin high-quality academic research.
A comprehensive literature review surveys the "literature" - scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) - relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory. The literature review summarizes, interprets, and critically evaluates the significant work on the topic.
A well-done literature review will guide future research on a topic, allowing you to place your own research in the context of other works.
Too much information? Less, but more relevant, information is key. Consider:
Not enough information? Think of related ideas, or read some background information first. Consider:
Remember, you will have to read extensively on an issue before you can define a feasible research topic. You may - and likely will - modify your topic many times as you discover new information.
(Adapted under a Creative Commons License from MIT Libraries)
In order to conduct an effective search, you must first identify key words, concepts, synonyms, and related terms to use in your search.
Sample topic: how will global warming affect life in the Great Lakes states in the 21st century?
Key Words: words that convey the main ideas of your topic or question.
Concepts: words that describe the big ideas to which your topic is related
Synonyms: words that mean the same thing as your key words
Related Terms: words that are closely related with key words, but not substitutes like synonyms
(Adapted under a creative commons license from Oregon School Library Information System)
Many databases and search engines allow you to use "Boolean logic" to refine your search by connecting words and phrases together to narrow or broaden your results.
Use AND between words or phrases to narrow your results and tell the database that all search terms must be present in the resulting records.
Use OR between words or phrases to broaden your results and tell the database that either search term must be present in the resulting records.
Use NOT between words or phrases to indicate that the first word or phrase must be present in the resulting records, but the second word or phrase should not be present.
Truncation (or the asterisk * ) can be used to get all results that contain a term beginning with a common set of letters.
Information can be gathered from a variety of formats:
No matter the format, you must evaluate the information to determine if it is appropriate for your research need. Consider:
Most sources you use will include references to other information, often (though not always) in the form of citations. it can be helpful to keep track of what sources relate to each other, and how.
Some databases also allow you to search for additional sources that cite a source you already have. Imagine you have found a great journal article on your topic. You can use these databases to generate a list of articles and books that cite your initial article. Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar all provide tools to help you build your citation map.