PA 533 Public Policy: Origins and Processes: Find Articles

Guide to Dr. Corbett's Public Policy: Origins and Processes

Databases

For a detailed primer on database searching, see the Public Administration guide.

The PSU Library has thousands of individual journal subscriptions that contain millions of academic articles. The best way to search this massive collection is through our collection of Databases. A Database is more than just a collection of electronic journals. It is a search system specifically designed to help researchers find articles directly related to their topic.

PSU has 2 types of databases. The first are subject-specific databases, which are designed for researchers in a specific field. These databases, like PAIS and Public Affairs Index, are excellent for focused research in a specific field.  The second type of database are multidisciplinary databases like PRIMO and Academic Search Premier, which are excellent for interdisciplinary topics.

Each has strengths and weakness. Subject databases are excellent for narrow research, and they omit superfluous results. Due to their narrow focus, however, they will sometimes omit relevant materials. Conversely, multidisciplinary databases provide access to a wide range of journals simultaneously, but this also means you'll need to narrow your search results significantly. 
 

As an example, a search in Public Affairs Index yields 986 while the identical search in PRIMO yields 13,288. Both approaches have virtues, it is just important to understand why the results are so different. 
 

Misc: GoogleScholar and E-journal Bundles

In addition to databases, there are also e-Journal bundles. These, such as JSTOR, allow you to search multiple journals at once. 
These are not "databases," however, as they don't provide any indexing or metadata. You can Keyword search through journals, but these systems to not provide the same search abilities as a proper research database.

Similarly, GoogleScholar is a means of searching across many journals at once, but without indexing. This makes it almost impossible to narrow your search results. GoogleScholar can be used to find an article if you already have a title, and it is an excellent way to see how many times a journal has been cited. (Example)

As a warning, I typically tell students to only use Google Scholar except as a last resort. Much of the content isn't actually peer reviewed, and there is some questionable content in there. As an illustrative example, I just conducted a search for "black lives matter." The very top result is a .cn (China domain) pdf. If you try to open it, it immediately tries to download software onto your computer (yikes!). There is also content that isn't actually peer reviewed. When I search "Academic Freedom," one of the top page results is an aaup blog post. As it happens I agree with the post, but it is nevertheless not an academic article. I really decided to roll the dice and tried finding articles about whether global warming is a hoax. The #1 result is from spiritualityandsoul.com, which does not spark confidence. 

It is great for know-item searching, though. You can use it to see who has cited a book/article/report, which is exceptionally helpful.

 

Subject Databases in PA

Specialty Databases

Search Techniques (AND OR NOT)

Be sure to use Caps for AND, OR, NOT when searching.

AND - searches for books and articles containing both terms. Example: China AND dance

OR - searches for one of the words. Example: British OR English

NOT - exclude a term. Example:  Music NOT punk

Parenthetical notes () - excellent for OR or NOT searches. Like a math equation, the database will do this part first.
Example: (British OR English) AND Music = search for British or English Music.
Example: (Oregon NOT Portland) AND Crime = search for crime in Oregon, excluding Portland.

Quotation Marks ""- Links words together in the search. Works best for phrases or proper names.
Example: "United States"
Example: "Portland State University"
Warning: You might exclude results. A search for "Chester Arthur" will exclude all results for "Chester A. Arthur."

Asterisk * - Allows you to search several word endings at once, without using OR.
Example: America* will give you results for America, American, Americans.
Example: Danc* will give you results for Dance, Dancing, Dancers.
Example: Brit* will give you British, Britain, Brits.
Warning: You may get unexpected results. Brit* will also yield Brittany, Britons, and Britches.

Search Terms

Searching for proper names and nouns is fairly easy. Countries are straight forward:
"United States"
Canada
China
Russia
These terms are set by the Library of Congress, so we use the named used by the State Department. While China calls itself "The People's Republic of China," the Library of Congress simply uses the term "China."

Abstract concepts are difficult to quantify, so try general keywords like:
Cultur* (which covers culture, cultures, cultural)
Value* (which covers value and values)
Belief* (which covers belief and beliefs)

For a video providing additional information, see PSU Library Developing Your Search tutorial video.