Political science, governance, and international affairs: Subfield: US politics

What's here

This guide focuses on principal resources in a subfield of political science.  It is supplements the main subject guide for political science and international studies The Other political science research guides tab is a menu that connects you to related research guides for the major subfields of the discipline and for related programs in the VT School of Public & International Affairs. 

Resources listed on this page are clustered into Key databases for accessing scholarly literature; Research starters; Background information and reference sources; Contact information for the subject librarian; and tabs identifying Additional information.

Parts of this guide are also available in related subject guides: Social data sources, News/journalism/streaming media,  Advice for searching/citing/engaging with related scholarly literatures, and Accessing VT library resources from off-campus.

Essential resources to know

Background and reference information

Research starters

You can start with a hot topic

If you're fishing for a topic, often a good place to start is current controversies.  If your reaction to a statement is "How could someone say something like that?", run with it -- not to refute it but to discover and explain whatever evidence and reasoning might lead a reasonable person of good will to say "something like that" is true or right in some respect or under some circumstances, which your research and analysis will test.

The "In context" family of databases from Gale lay out pro-cons of controversies with articles and data from scholarly journals and popular sources. Use them to refine and focus your own thinking;  use their references to find trustworthy scholarship, data, and primary sources;  and especially to harvest on-target search terms to use in subject-oriented databases like Worldwide Political Science Abstracts or HeinOnline.   These can be especially useful for political and political science/international studies research:

You risk violating the Honor Code if you rely only on the "canned" sources in these databases for assignments that expect you to do your own research design, searching, and analyses. Check with your instructor.

Often predefined topics won't keep up with events.  Peer-reviewed scholarship can take two years and more to appear after an event.  Journalism may be your best available source of information.  News sources might identify experts in universities, government, think tanks, or industry who have published research about similar events or problems that you can apply.

  • Access World News from Newsbank is a broad-based collection of news reports with a straightforward interface. (Factiva is bigger and more powerful but a bit harder to learn.)
  • Academic OneFile from Gale is a bridge between journalism and other popular sources and scholarship across many disciplines. You may find it is more manageable than the "discovery" search box on the library homepage.

You can start with published data

If data have been published, there is research behind them.  Reputable data collections will provide source information: who or what agency collected and analyzed the data, when.  Data citations will often include titles of publications that can connect you to datasets collected over time and/or across related questions in one place or period.  These data collections are good starters:

Social Sciences & History Librarian

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Bruce Pencek
Newman Library (MC 0434)
Office #3050
560 Drillfield Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Email is the best way to contact me with questions or appointment requests.

Office hours (walk-in and/or Zoom): T 1-3:00 pm, W-Th 2-4:00 pm (Eastern time), and by appointment.
- virginiatech.zoom.us/j/95623507981
(540) 231-2140

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Interlibrary Loan Services

All current Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff, regardless of your location, may request through ILLiad for materials:

  • not owned by Virginia Tech (books, articles from journals and conference proceedings, book chapters, standards, and technical papers)
  • owned by Virginia Tech but are unavailable for use (print books)
  • owned by Virginia Tech and available in print (scans of articles from journals and conference proceedings, book chapters, standards, and technical papers)

We ship requests via UPS to users outside the immediate Blacksburg area (Montgomery, Giles and Pulaski counties).

Articles, book chapters, and many technical papers are delivered in PDF format to your ILLiad account. Occasionally, due to copyright restrictions, a paper copy of an article or standard is held for your at the Newman User Services Desk or sent o the mailing address listed on your account.

Temporary, trial access only -- use while you can

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech regularly secure short-term, trial access to online resources in order to gauge their appropriateness to our university's teaching and research missions. These trials run in October, February, and sometimes April.  Most trials run 30 days.

This box highlights some of these opportunities. All active trials are listed in a sidebar in the main Databases A-Z directory and as a tab atop this libguide. 

Each entry includes a link to a user survey. I and other subject librarians invite you to email us your detailed assessments of resources. Responses from the Virginia Tech community are vital to the library's deliberations about whether and when to acquire or enhance databases and the like.

As appropriate I will list all currently active trials and user survey links in a resource trials tab in this and my other libguides.  Entries for trials I may include in the body of my libguides will go away when the trial period ends.