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Political Science Research Guide: Is it a Political Science journal?

Political Science journals

This page goes over some search strategies that can help you find articles published in Political Science journals. 


Cover of Policy Studies Journal

 ✅  The journal pictured above, Policy Studies Journal, is an example of a Political Science journal. Some Political Science journals have the words "political science" or "policy" in the title, but many do not. Using the TLU Library databases or Google Scholar, you can access hundreds of Political Science journals. If the full text of an article is not available through the databases or on the open web, you can request the full text through Interlibrary Loan. 

Finding Political Science journals in Google Scholar

This is a procedure that TLU Political Science faculty have found works well for locating Political Science journals using Google Scholar.

  1. Generate search terms. Your research question will often follow this format: “To what extent does increasing [IV] among [unit of analysis] lead to a [choose one: increase/decrease] in [DV]?” Look at your research question to generate your keyword search terms, starting with parts of the question and potential answers to the question. For example, if your research question was “How does petting time affect cats?” your keywords could be: petting, pet*, "petting time," purring, cat happiness.
  2. Do an initial search in Google Scholar. Check for the following things in order on the first page of the search:
    • 2a. Number of hits. If very large (250,000 is a rough number; certainly less than 1M), the search is likely too broad. Return to the search terms and make more specific.
    • 2b. Political science journal articles. If the first page isn’t mostly political science journal articles, add “political science” in quotes and try again. If still not, then return to search terms. "Political science” in quotes does nothing more than ensures that those two words appear in the article. Restricting further on journal title throws out useful sources. To determine whether it’s a political science source, consider the name of the journal. If it is plausibly political science, it’s fine for now and your professor can address any special exceptions later.
    • 2c. Consider the title of the article. Does the title seem relevant? Find one article with a relevant title. Read the abstract.
    • 2d. If the article seems relevant, check peer reviewed status. Do this for articles by typing in the journal title and “peer reviewed” into regular Google. For books, check if it’s published by a university press. Some publications are "edge cases" - law reviews and commercial presses. Your professor can discuss those with you later. Save a link to the article.
    • 2e. Use the one relevant article to find more. Read the references list. Use the Cited By button. Use the Related Articles button. Click on author names.
  3. Access the article on Google Scholar using the PDF button or through the library/ILL.
  4. Cite the article in APSA format. Either write the citation by hand, or click on the Google Scholar cite button and follow APA format, but re-arrange it to be APSA format. Since almost all citation generators don’t have APSA format, learning to do the citations by hand will serve you best in the long run. It will also help you learn what a volume and issue are and be sure you understand the difference between article title and journal title. 


Screenshot of Google Scholar

Finding Political Science journals in Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete

The Academic Search Complete database is a good place to find scholarly articles. It searches journals in many disciplines, not just Political Science. Despite its name, it is not a "complete" collection of all the journals to which the library subscribes, but it is a good collection of high-quality journals.

Use two or more search boxes (Advanced Search).

Brainstorm alternate keywords

  • You can combine synonyms with OR. You can keep words together as a phrase with quotation marks. For example: "pay gap" OR "wage gap"

There is no exact way to limit your search to Political Science journals. Here is a "hack" you can use to find some Political Science journals, although it may exclude some relevant journals and include some irrelevant ones. Put this string of terms into a box, using the SO Journal Title drop-down: 

  • political OR policy OR politics OR government OR international OR electoral


Evaluating results - Looking for Political Science journals

Look at the journal title. Often it will have a descriptive name like American Political Science Review or The Journal of Politics. 

 If you are not sure whether this is a Political Science journal, try searching for the journal's website.

Another thing to try: See whether the database record lists the author's academic department. Or do a Web search for the author to see where they work.