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POL6240: Introduction to Research Design: Reference Sources

Federal Legislative History Research Guides

Reference Sources for Political Science Research

Your starting point for a research project should be the Library's reference collection. If you're looking for topic ideas, these can be among the best materials to use, but they are equally helpful even if you already have a topic in mind. Reference materials can include:

  • almanacs
  • bibliographies
  • directories
  • handbooks or guides to research for specific subjects
  • specialized historical, biographical, or subject enclyclopedias
  • statistical compendia (e.g., statistics on voting and elections)

These materials are designed to provide you with an introductory overview of a topic. The best reference works:

  • are written by experts in their subjects
  • will suggest many possible paper topics to you (or help you narrow down a topic that is too broad)
  • provide basic facts, background, and contextual information for a subject
  • give you a good idea of the major questions and debates political scientists have explored in relation to a subject
  • may give you a good idea of the major primary sources available for a subject
  • will provide a brief but carefully selected bibliography of important secondary works about the subject

In sum, reference resources are very efficient tools to use in the early stages of research paper topic selection and topic refinement; they are practical stepping stones to the next stages of your project. They can save you time and should be consulted as you begin your work.

Subject Guide

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Richard Kearney
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Electronic Resources Librarian
Reference and Information Services Office, Room 107g
David and Lorraine Cheng Library
William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, NJ 07470