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POLS-396: Topics in International Relations

Finding Articles


In this module, we turn to finding articles - specifically scholarly journal articles. We will address: 

  • the characteristics of different types of articles (scholarly, popular and newspaper)
  • how to locate a specific article when you have a citation, and
  • how to find articles on a topic using Proquest's Political Studies database
Articles are one of the best sources of information on any given topic. They can contain news, detailed analysis, or the results of a scientific study. Issued "periodically" in daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or irregular intervals, articles are found in a variety of publications including journals, magazines and newspapers and are now predominantly online. The second floor of Stauffer library contains the print journals (both current and bound volumes) to which the library subscribes.


Scholarly journal articles are a critical source of authoritative information, as they contain the results of original academic research or experimentation. Scholarly journals are also referred to as "academic," "peer-reviewed," or "refereed" journals. Using scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles is usually a requirement in university course assignments.




Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals


To provide information on current events.
Local and regional focus.

To inform or entertain readers on general interest topics in broad subject fields.

Report on original research or experimentation.


Journalists on staff or freelance writers.

Staff or freelance writers.

Scholar/expert within an academic field or discipline.


Newspaper editor reviews submitted articles.

Magazine editor reviews submitted articles.

Experts in the field review articles submitted for publication. Publications that undertake this editorial process are also known as peer-reviewed or refereed publications.

Intended Audience

General public.

General public.

Professors, researchers, college and university students.


Simple, non-technical, easy to understand.

Some simple, others more demanding but still easy to understand and  non-technical.

Specialized vocabulary of the discipline.


Black and white, some colour, containing many photographs and illustrations.

Slick, glossy, contain photographs and illustrations.

Shorter articles.

Serious look. Plain, black and white, containing charts, graphs, and tables.

Lengthy articles and academic level book reviews.



Contain extensive advertising.

Contain extensive advertising.

Selective advertising. Few ads, usually for publications or services in the discipline.


Commercial publishers.

Frequency varies but usually daily.

Commercial publishers.

Usually published weekly or monthly.

Scholarly presses
Academic/research organizations.

Published monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.


Usually do not cite. Sources sometimes quoted in article text.

Usually do not cite. Sources sometimes quoted in article text.

Extensive documentation.
Bibliographies or references included.


New York Times
The Guardian
Globe and Mail
Ottawa Citizen


European Journal of Political Research;
Journal of Political Ideologies



More often than not you don't have the benefit of an article or book title to get your research rolling but rather you have a topic. The best resources to use for locating articles on a topic -- but also the most challenging -- are the Library's subject-specific indexes and article databases.

The Library subscribes to hundreds of online article indexes and databases (over 650 databases at last count) on a wide range of subjects. WHY? Students often wonder why the library purchases pricey subscriptions to article indexes ('databases") when it is so much easier to use the web. Yale University Library has compiled an excellent .pdf summary that responds to the question: The Web vs Library Databases - A Comparison.

From the Library Homepage there are several ways to find an article index or database that covers the literature of your discipline. Our Research Guide for Political Studies provides a list of recommended article databases but also refer to "Searching Omni" for help navigating the library's search interface. (Omni searches for books, book chapters, videos, articles and conference proceedings at Queen's University Library.)

Proquest Politics Collection is made up of a pre-selected group of 4 databases covering literature published in political studies (PAIS, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, Worldwide Political Abstracts, and Proquest Political Science). In addition to full text articles, the collection contains full-text dissertations, thousands of working papers, country reports, and government documents, offering an international perspective from leading and emerging academics, policy makers, and think tanks.

The following screen capture demonstrates a few of the most useful limits to apply to searches. In particular, note the limit to "peer review" and "scholarly journals."

Subscription-based databases contain content (citations or full text articles, for example) that is not freely available through other search tools such as web search engines like Google. These databases also provide a variety of search options including the ability to limit to scholarly journal content and full text. As such, these types of library subscription databases are your primary gateway to the scholarly literature in your field.

Multidisciplinary databases cover a range of subject areas.  If your topic does not fall neatly into one subject area, or if you would like different perspectives on your topic, general databases can be a good place to start your research. In politics, multidisciplinary databases provide the added benefit of including articles from law, business, and more. (The library has produced a subject guide to Multidisciplinary Databases in the Humanities and Social Sciences.)

If you already know the name of the database you want to search you can enter it through the Databases link from the library homepage. From the Library Homepage, choose the Databases link and in the "Find a database" box type: Academic Search Complete. 

Academic Search Complete is a multi-disciplinary index (with abstracts) to more than 10,900 publications including peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings, monographs and reports. Approximately 50% of the journal titles also contain the full-text of articles. If the full text of the article is not available in the database itself, click the "Get it at Queen's" icon to search for the article's availability through Queen's Library subscriptions.

For a brief tutorial Powerpoint tutorial on using Academic Search Complete, click here.

[Academic Search Complete interface]


[Google Scholar] Google Scholar

Google Scholar ( is Google's scholarly search engine. It searches for scholarly materials including journal articles, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from a variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web. It is useful as a supplementary search tool but not comprehensive enough in the area of political studies to be used exclusively.

Points to Consider

  • Coverage appears to be strongest in science and technology, and weakest in the humanities;
  • There isn't a way to focus your search on political studies materials (unlike when you search one of the library's specialized article databases);
  • Google Scholar only includes articles that are within reach of its crawler, which is a much smaller subset of scholarly articles than found in some of the databases subscribed to by Queen’s Library; and
  • In some cases the content is freely available in full text, while in other instances abstracts with links to pay-for document delivery services are displayed.

Customize Your Scholar Preferences: Get It @ Queen's

[Scholar Preferences] Click on the Settings "gear" located in the upper right hand corner of the Google Scholar search page to customize your Scholar Preferences (several preferences you can set and save). When searching Google Scholar from on-campus, the Library Links preference will already be set to allow for the Get it @ Queen's service. This service links citations in research databases to full-text articles or to the Library Catalogue or to other related web services provided by Queen's University Library.