UCB Libraries

The 2012 U.S. Presidential Debates. From AP Images

2012 U.S. Presidential Debates. From AP Images.

Research Guide for Political Science

The University Libraries at CU Boulder are home to over 12 million physical volumes and millions more documents online. This guide is designed to help students of Political Science find the most relevant, accurate, and useful sources for their studies, regardless of format.


If you need help finding or navigating through any of these sources, contact the Government Information Library.  Members of the department are available for classroom instruction, and one-on-one and group consultation to recommend, explain, and discuss sources and research in Political Science.

Contact Government Information  via email or phone (303-492-8834) to set up a time to meet.

  • Tips to Start
  • Useful Sources for Articles
  • Finding Statistics
  • Finding Primary Sources
  • Other Useful Guides

Tips to Get You Started


If you're new to the study of Political Science, here are a few recommendations to help you delve into its largest areas of study, and the main library tools you will need to use.


1) Learn How to Use Chinook, the Libraries' Catalog.

Chinook is the gateway to the print and online collections purchased by the Libraries. To use it effectively, remember these tips:

  1. Keyword Searching. Like commercial search engines, just a few terms entered into Chinook will display results.
  2. Use the Facets. To narrow your results further, use the facets on the left-hand side of the results page. These let you narrow by format, year published, subject heading, location, and other categories.
  3. Use the Subject Headings. These hyperlinked terms are located in the record, or catalog page, for individual titles (Here's an example). Subject Headings help you to narrow your search to materials only about that specific topic. If you're interested in books on the history of political campaigns in the 20th Century, then this is the link to the Subject Heading for you: Political campaigns -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  4. Chinook is good for titles of individual works, like books or an entire run of a journal, but it is not good for looking up the specific articles found within a journal. For tips on finding articles, read on.


Google is useful, but not the best way to find materials

for your classes. From AP Images.


2) Learn Which Sources Are Best for You

Because the Libraries also purchases materials that are available only online -- which most often means the full text of articles found within specific journals -- we have collected these materials in a different part of the Libraries' Web site: Find Articles & More.


Here the collections are organized for easier access by their most relevant subject area. For your conveience, all the Political Science collections are also linked to on this page, within the menu on the left-hand side.


Pro Tip! Once you're more familiar with the sources for articles that you most often use, you can get to those publications directly by searching for them by title in Chinook. So if you're interested in accessing our collection of the journal Foreign Policy, you can search for it by title, like so: Foreign Policy.

3) Learn to Search Libraries Outside of CU

Even with all our holdings, the Libraries doesn't own every book or article you may need. You do still have access to these materials, however, and there are two major library catalogs from which you can search and request materials not available at CU Boulder. Read on for more info.



Obtaining items from another library is a different

kind of Magic. From AP Images.


Prospector is a library catalog that searches the collections of 23 libraries from around Colorado and Wyoming. Materials not held by CU, or items that are currently checked out, can be requested from within Prospector for delivery to your nearest CU Boulder library branch. To do this, click on "Request This Item" within Prospector, and enter your CU "identikey" when prompted. If the materials you want are avaiable at another Prospector library, they will generally take between 3-5 business days to arrive at CU.

WorldCat CU

WorldCat is a kind of "library catalog of library catalogs" that searches the holdings of libraries across the world. Requesting materials through WorldCat is done through the InterLibrary Loan Department and not through the catalog itself, however. To learn more about ILL, visit their web page.

Tip! Curious about titles in Political Science coming to the CU Libraries? You can subscribe to an RSS Feeds RSS feed to see each new arrival.


+ Useful Sources for Articles

Reference Materials

For a broad overview of a particular topic, try these collections:

  • CQ Electronic Library CU
    A excellent collection of sources that feature encyclopedias on Religion in America, the U.S. Supreme Court, Politics in America, and Vital Statistics on American Politics, among others.
  • CQ Researcher Plus and CQ Global Researcher CU
  • In-depth weekly overviews on a single topic per issue. Issues range from world politics to the environment to current events. Also part of the CQ Electronic Library.

  • ABC-Clio eBook Collection CU
    A collection of reference sources on topics ranging from comparative politics, to human rights, to internationl relations.
  • From Chinook: Political Science Reference books
Indices of Political Science Research

    PAIS, or the Public Affairs Information Service, has been indexing global policy issues since 1915. This database contains abstracts of articles, books, and working papers, but does not contain full-text articles. Uusing the Find it CU button, however, should help you to find copies of most of the materials indexed in PAIS. (Check out the How Do I...Find it at CU? guide for more tips on locating materials.)
  • International Political Science Abstracts CU
    International Political Science Abstracts indexes periodicals from all over the world. Unlike PAIS, this database only contains abstracts of articles. Again since this is an index of materials, you will need to use Find it at CU to discover if CU has a copy in its collection.
    Columba International Affairs Online publishes working papers from university research institutes, papers from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, as well as books, journals and policy briefs. CIAO is also widely-recognized source for political science teaching materials.
Tip! Use the VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect to the library remotely. Get access to sources for articles, ebooks, and more from home, the coffee shop, or around the world by logging in and using the links on this page as normal.


Starting Points for Statistics

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
    The Statistical Abstract is updated every year and is available in print and electronic form. This is the best source for starting your search for US statistics. While the tables in this resource may not match your needs exactly, the citations can lead you to the group that gathers those statistics so you can search their site for what you need.
  • UNData
    This is the source for statistics gathered by the numerous UN agencies and affiliates. The database lets you search for information on individual countries or for collections of statistics by issue or database.
  • Statistics--United States (data)
    This is a collection of databases with data on the United States.
  • Statistics--Worldwide (data)
    This is a collection of databases with data for the whole world.
Strategies for Discovering the data you need

  1. Who else is interested in your data?
    If you are having trouble finding data that you are looking for think about who else might be interested in this information. For example, imagine you want information on how many students are home schooled in the United States. The United States Department of Education may be interested in this information and if you go to the National Center for Education Statistics (part of the Department of Education), you will find a number of publications on home schooling.
  2. Is the data I want too recent?
    While information is released faster and faster, statistics still take a while to compile. This means that for the majority of resources, data from the current year or even last year may not be available when you want them. For example, the US Department of Justice's Uniform Crime Reports (the number of crimes committed) routinely takes almost 2 years to be released.
  3. Have you checked for the data in non-internet sources?
    More and more data is available online every day, but for some areas the data may still only be available in another format, such as a CD or book. One of the major databases for finding these sources is Statistical. This database contains many of the tables it indexes, but we have copies of all the materials in hard copy (print or microfiche) in the Government Information Library.
  4. Ask for help
    If you still are having trouble, contact the Political Science bibliographer, Jennie Gerke, by email or phone (303-735-6804) for assistance.
A primary source is a document, object, or other evidence about the topic you are investigating that was created during the time period under study. It provides direct evidence and thus offers an inside view into events of the period. Primary sources come in many forms: documents (diaries, letters, speeches, government documents, books, periodicals, interviews); creative works (novels, music, poetry); and artifacts (photos, pottery, clothing). (For more info, check out the finding primary sources guide.)
+ Finding Materials in the Catalog

There are many primary sources available in the Libraries, including paper documents such as books, pamphlets, broadsides, and manuscripts, as well as electronic and microform collections. You can locate relevant items by searching in Chinook, the library catalog.

Tips for Searching Chinook

  • Do a keyword search on your topic, remember to think of synonyms for your search terms. For example, labor or work or employment. You can even try all these words at once, for example, check out this search in Chinook for "(labor or work or employment) and World War and narratives," to see narratives on work during the World Wars.
    Note: British spelling is used in many of the international titles in English. So if you are looking for international materials, keep those spelling differences in mind. E.g. labor is labour.
  • As the above search demonstrated, adding special subject terms that identify primary materials: sources (more general), correspondence, diaries, early works, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, etc. can help narrow down your result set.
  • You can also try an author search on a particular figure during the time period you are studying.
  • Don't forget to follow those "Subject" links in the full records for a title for more resources on that topic.

+ Finding Newspapers and Historical Databases

To learn how to find a newspaper article on your topic, check out this guide to finding newspapers.


Finding Historical Databases

Check out these collections of the major databases containing primary sources:

+ Finding Government Publications
The CU-Boulder library contains government resources from the local to international level. While many of these resources can be found using Chinook, the library catalog, the historical material is generally uncataloged. There are a number of resources to find these materials and if you don't find what you are looking for here, send an email or call 303-492-8834 for assistance finding material.

Indexes to Historic Material

  • Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications CU
    This is an index to publications from the United States government from 1895-1976. You will find call numbers on the records for the majority of the titles in this database and they will match the call numbers of the piece in the library stacks. The materials published after this date should all be in the catalog.
  • AccessUN CU
    This is an index to the publications of the United Nations from its foundation to the present. The call numbers you find on the records in this catalog are the same ones that will be on the materials in the library stacks.
Historical Collections (a small selection)

  • US Congressional Serial Set CU
    The Serial Set is a collection of the reports and documents of Congress. In the early days of the United States it was also the place many reports and documents of Executive Branch agencies were printed. When the digitization is complete this database will contain 13,800 volumes with over 11 million pages.
  • Congressional CU
    This database has indexes and full-text access to additional Congressional materials, such hearings, committee prints, Congressional Research Service Reports, and the Congressional Record. The index of these materials goes back to 1789 (the first congress).
The library has created numerous guides that may be of use to your research in Political Science. The easiest way to access these guides is to use the Research and Subject Guides Database, which lets you search or browse through all the guides in the library.

A Selection of Useful Guides

  • How Do I?
    These are quick guides to doing basic library tasks, such as renewing a book, accessing databases from off campus, and much more.
  • Country and Territory Guides
    This is a collection of guides to every country in the world. These guides contain links to primary sources, statistics, analysis, and databases on each country.
  • Congress and Legislation
    This is a collection of resources on the United States Congress and legislative resources from the Government Information Library.
  • Declassified Documents
    This guide, from the Government Information Library, provides links to electronic and print resources on declassified documents.
  • Presidents
    This guide, from the Government Information Library, provides links to resources on the office of the Presidency.
Instruction Guides
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