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POLS-410: Comparing Canada

Finding Articles

You won't always have the benefit of an article or book title to get your research rolling but rather you have a broad topic. The best tools to use for locating articles on a topic -- but sometimes the most challenging -- are the Library's subject-specific indexes and 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. There are numerous answers to the question but the strongest is that academic databases make it easier to identify scholarly resources that are most appropriate for use in the academic learning environment.

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 Bing, Google and Yahoo. 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, these general databases can be a good place to start your research. Multidisciplinary Databases at Queen's Library. The library subscribes to tools such as Academic Search Complete that are also valuable tools in this category.)

[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.


Working in small groups of 2 or 3, search for literature that addresses the question: To what extent does gender impact political attitudes in Canada? Each group will select one of the following tools to search while evaluating the pros and cons of the tool with the intent of providing feedback to their peers: