POLS 3505: Making Democracy Work

"Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman's statement that concerns Mubarak's resignation. February 11, 2011 - 10:15 PM." By Jonathan Rashad, via Wikimedia Commons.

This page highlights key resources for conducting effective research for Making Democracy Work.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

If you need assistance organizing, analyzing, or visualizing data sets, please visit the Empirical Research Center (ERC).

Sheri Berman

Personal Librarian 
Jennie Correia
Social Sciences Librarian
103 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall

Background Information
Journal Articles/Databases
Policy Institutes/Think Tanks
Newspapers & Magazines
Data & Stats
Government Information
Writing & Citing


Finding Background Information

Consult scholarly reference sources and annual reviews to get an overview of a topic, an introduction to a theory, definitions to discipline-specific terms, and more.


Finding Books - Catalogs

CLIO is the online catalog of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and some information from the Law Library. Search the Catalog for book and media materials.

Catalog search tips:

If you know exactly what book (journal, video, etc.) you are looking for, you can search by Title, Author, ISBN, etc.

To find items about a specific topic, first try a keyword search in All Fields.

  • Use "quotation marks" to search for an exact phrase: "nation building".
  • Use * for truncation (to find variant spellings and endings of a word): wom*n will find woman, women, womyn; activis* will find activism, activist, activists, etc.
  • For more complex search, use AND and OR:
    • AND finds records which have all the search terms you entered.
    • OR finds records which have one of the search terms you entered, as well as records which have more than one of the terms. OR finds MORE.
    • For more help with using AND and OR, check our guide to advanced/Boolean keyword searching.
  • Use parentheses to group terms:  "nation building" AND (wom*n OR gender)

Subject headings: If you find a book that's relevant, look at its subject headings in CLIO and click through to find more related works.

Find books and other materials in other libraries:


Finding Journal Articles/Databases

There are hundreds of databases available through CLIO. You can use the Articles section in CLIO to search multiple databases simultaneously, including many listed below.

For off-campus access to library online resources, remember to follow the links from CLIO or this research guide. You can also use the proxy bookmarklet.

Database search tips:

  • The general search tips for CLIO also apply to the article databases.
  • If you find an article or a book that is relevant, the bibliography/works cited page can be a useful road map to other relevant literature that was previously published.  
  • If you find an article or a book that is relevant, you can use Google Scholar and some other databases to find out whether it was cited by other scholars after it was published. Search for the title of an article/monograph and search and click on "Cited by" to generate a list of publications that have referenced that source.
  • In most databases, you can narrow your results to scholarly publications only. Look for "limit to ... scholarly publications/peer-reviewed/refereed publications only" or similar language. This will help you find articles from journals that have gone through a rigorous peer review process.  

Recommended Scholarly Databases:

  • Contemporary Women's Issues provides full text access to information about women in over 190 countries, including journal and magazine articles, research reports, and fact sheets.
  • GenderWatch includes full text from contemporary scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, regional publications, books, booklets and pamphlets, conference proceedings, and government, NGO and special reports.
  • Google Scholar is very useful for seeing if a book, article, etc. has been cited by other scholars. Search on the title, and then follow the "Cited by ..." link. 
  • International Political Science Abstracts (IPSA) provides citations and abstracts for political science journal articles and yearbooks, including literature in the field of international affairs.
  • JSTOR provides the full text of back issues from core scholarly journals in political science and other fields in the humanities and social sciences from the earliest issues to within a few years of current publication. Please note that, generally, this database does not include issues published in the last few years. You can search just the political science journals in JSTOR by using the Advanced Search "NARROW BY DISCIPLINE AND/OR JOURNAL" feature.
  • PAIS Index features public affairs research, including references to journal articles, books, government documents, statistical sources, research reports, conference proceedings, and publications of international agencies.
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts contains abstracts of books, scholarly journal articles, and major news magazine articles covering North American and international politics.

Related Scholarly Journals:


Finding Policy Institutes/Think Tanks

    Some databases provide access to think tank, NGO, and policy institute publications: 

    • CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online) provides working papers, research reports, policy briefs and more from university research institutes, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and foundations. This is a good place to look for analysis of recent events and current situations.
    • Contemporary Women's Issues provides full text access to information about women in over 190 countries, including journal and magazine articles, research reports, and fact sheets.
    • GenderWatch includes full text from contemporary scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, regional publications, books, booklets and pamphlets, conference proceedings, and government, NGO and special reports.

    Here are some recommended institutes, organizations, and research projects to explore: 

    Like all sources you encounter, be sure to evaluate the relevance, quality, and perspective of works put out by think tanks and research institutes. More information on evaluating think tanks:

    • Evaluating Resources from the University of California Berkeley clearly presents key questions you want to ask of your sources: 
      • "Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view? 
      • Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
      • Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium?
      • Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
      • Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
      • Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?"
    • Writing about think tanks and using their research: A cautionary tip sheet: This is written for journalists, but it's questions and tips are also helpful for student researchers. 
    • On Think Tanks has a series of articles on Understanding Think Tanks.
    • Think Tank Search from Harvard Kennedy School is a custom Google search of over 690 think tank websites. "For the purposes of this search, think tanks are defined as institutions affiliated with universities, governments, advocacy groups, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. Inclusion is based upon the relevancy of subject area to HKS coursework and scholarship, the availability of the think tank’s research in full-text on the website, and the think tank’s reputation and influence upon policy making. The list represents a mixture of partisan and non-partisan think tanks."
    • The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the relationship between think tanks, politics, and public policy and produces the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index.


    Finding Newspapers and Magazines

    For current/recent events analysis, consult news sources such as the following. Note that we often have access to newspapers, magazines, and journals through database platform rather than through the publication's website. Access varies by date. If you have trouble finding the full-text free online, contact a librarian for help

    Additional news sources can be found in various databases:

    • AllAfrica.com posts over 700 stories daily in English and French and offers a diversity of multi-lingual streaming programming as well as a 400,000-article searchable archive (which includes the archive of Africa News Service dating from 1997). Fully accessible ONLY on campus.
    • Alt-Press Watch provides full text articles from over 210 alternative and press publications, including newspapers, magazines and journals.
    • Ethnic newsWatch provides full text articles from newspapers and periodicals published by the ethnic, minority and native press in the U.S. back to 1960.
    • Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports provides full text translations of newspaper articles, radio and television broadcasts, non-classified technical reports, conference proceedings, and local media sources from around the world. This database covers 1941-1996; coverage from 1996 to the present is available in World News Connection, described below.
    • LexisNexis Academic contains access to hundreds of information sources including the full text of newspapers, magazines, wire services, newsletters, journals, and broadcast transcripts from around the world.
    • Mideastwire.com offers a daily email newsletter of concise, translated briefs covering some of the key political, cultural, economic and opinion pieces appearing via the print, radio and television media of the 22 Arab countries, Iran and the Arab Diaspora.
    • ProQuest Newspapers has articles from U.S. national newspapers, international English-language newspapers, and selected regional/state newspapers. Chronological coverage of individual newspapers varies. 
    • World News Connection is the continuation of FBIS Daily Reports, above. It provides full text translations of newspaper articles, radio and television broadcasts, non-classified technical reports, conference proceedings, and local media sources from around the world. This database covers 1996 to 2013; coverage from 1941 to 1996 is available in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, described above.

    Other news tips:


    Finding Data and Statistical Sources

    • CountryWatch provides comprehensive and up-to-date political, economic, cultural, business, and environmental information. Country Wire provides daily country-specific news.
    • EUI (Economist Intelligence Unit) provides country reports with various economic data, statistics, news, and analysis.
    • International Monetary Fund (IMF) Data and Statistics includes a range of data on IMF lending over time, historical exchange rates, and other economic and financial information.
    • OECD iLibrary is a portal for the online publications of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). You can generate data and statistical reports for OECD member countries on a wide range of topics including agriculture, development, economics, education, energy, environment, governance, health migration, science & technology, transportation, and more.
    • UNdata includes current and historical statistical data for countries from around the world covering a wide range of economic and socio-demographic topics.
    • Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) database contains over 18 million data points. As of April 2017, the dataset covers 177 countries from 1900 to 2016 with annual updates to follow. 
    • World Bank DataBank provides access to many World Bank data sets, including World Development Indicators (WDI). WDI contains cross-country comparable statistics about debt, development, economics, education, gender equity, health, and more.


    Finding Government Information 

    • Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports are reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. 
    • Digital National Security Archive includes more than 80,000 of the most important declassified documents regarding critical US policy decisions.
    • HeinOnline provides a wide variety of official U.S. and foreign government publications, including constitutions, treaties, and international agreements.
    • ProQuest Congressional tracks information and publications produced by the United States Congress from 1789 to the present, including legislative histories and testimony from congressional hearings.
    • UN Treaty Collection provides access to over 50,000 full text bilateral and multilateral treaties.
    • United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - official website. 
    • US Declassified Documents Online (USDDO) provides access to previously classified US government documents, particularly from the executive branch. The majority of the documents are presidential records. You can also find records from the Department of State, Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other executive agencies. Materials include intelligence studies, policy papers, diplomatic correspondence, cabinet meeting minutes, briefing materials, and domestic surveillance and military reports. NOTE: This resource was previously called Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS).
    • US Department of State Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report "describes efforts by the U.S. Government to support democracy and human rights in nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transitions worldwide". 


    Writing and Citing

    • Barnard guides to citation management provides information about citation practices, style guides, and software programs you can use that help you keep track of your sources and create bibliographies.
    • Cite Source presents information about how to cite various sources in a visual way, and they offer guidance on citing tricky source like government agency reports, House and Senate committee debates and hearings, and other. Check out the source help for APAAPSA, Chicago, and MLA styles.​
    • The Craft of Research is an online book that can help guide you through the full research process.
    • Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) has lots of general and subject-specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.


    Last updated February 6, 2018

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