Public administration and policy: Searching, citing, and engaging literatures
What's on this page
This page is divided into sections devoted to Bruce Pencek's handouts on planning and doing effective, efficient searching and guidance on citations and ethical use of others' work Researchers interested in effective scholarly communication may wish to see the Grad student tab, above.
How-to handouts and videos about systematic, effective lit-searching
Think of these handouts as lecture notes for what Bruce Pencek said (tried to say... meant to say...) in class or a research consultation.
Be a goal-directed, situationally aware searcher
Bruce Pencek's system of search techniques to discover and acquire relevant research sources efficiently -- so you can manage your time and effort.
I. When to search "the literature"... for the feasibility of the research plan, for primary and secondary sources relevant to the research question, and for making sure you've covered all bases on your answer to your question when you write your paper.
II. Situationally aware (re)searching. We suffer from too much information. So identifying your goal, planning ahead, and then applying what you learn in each stage are vital to research success. This handout offers prompts and a sequence of stages -- and the appropriate tools for each -- to keep your research on target.
III. Operationalize and organize. A one-page grid framework for laying our your search as part of your research design, aligned with social science concerns for identifying concepts/variables, relationships, explanations, and evidence.
IV. Get tactical. Tips to give you better search results in less time.
- What's the use of Discovery Search? Pencek's take on the special uses and disadvantages of VT Libraries' third generation Discovery Search (aka WorldCat Discovery) and similar systems.
- What kind of "article" am I looking at? Some pointers for when you encounter things that look like articles so you can decide if they are appropriate for your project. Compares characteristics, content, and information timelines for sorting out popular, trade, and academic publications.
- Bibliographic speed dating. Illustrates use of overlooked search history (aka recent searches) functions in many subject databases to speed you through finding sources relevant to your research question.
- Search faster using insiders' power words. Quickly find relevant books and some articles using this list of "inside libraries" keywords in VT Discovery Search [WorldCat Discovery], library catalogs, and even article databases if they use Library of Congress subject headings.
- You can't search NEAR enough: "proximity" searching. Reduce noisy results in full-text databases (and Google) by using the precise NEAR command (and its relatives) instead of the clumsy Boolean AND. Includes table of proximity syntax for several database and publisher platforms.
(Re)search planning. Research, and thus literature searching, is planned, guided by a hunch that your work will test. Here are some considerations about planning your (re)search before you plunge into library tools. Read slide deck.
See also these related handouts:
- When to search "the literature."
- Situationally aware (re)searching: stages.
- Operationalize and organize search terms.
Power searching subject databases. Walk through using subject-oriented databases in the VT Libraries -- your most important and efficient tools for finding academic literature. Example illustrates the ProQuest platform specifically (using Worldwide Political Science Abstracts), it but refers when appropriate to similar functions in EbscoHost databases. Read slide deck.
See also these related handouts:
Basics of literature (re)searching. Recordings of consecutive in-person lectures for PSCI/IS 1034: Introduction to international studies and political science, spring 2022.
- Operationalizing: getting from your general curiosity to a manageable, (re)searchable question and plan.
- Situationally aware searching: You planned your search mission, now improvise and adapt to what the information environment actually offers you.
Factiva for global news. Introduction to browsing current news and to searching the large, powerful Factiva database of global news reporting from major newspapers and broadcasters. Read slide deck. (NOTE: Dow Jones, the publisher of Factiva, has eliminated its "newstand" menu, making it impossible to browse non-US news sources. This is noted in the slides but not in the video.)
This related handout also applies to searching most historical news archives:
Odyssey, our "learning object repository," offers a growing list of how-to videos and handouts, about the mechanics of using Virginia Tech Libraries' digital and physical resources, including
- Discovery Search
- Finding and checking out printed books in Newman Library
- ILLiad interlibrary loan for getting your hands on books and articles
- Registering for ILLiad (Blacksburg users) (Extended campus users)
- Requesting and using ILL materials (Blacksburg users) (Extended campus users)
- Database basics
- Using different databases successfully (common features and functions behind different interfaces
- Keyword basics
- What's in a results list.
Orient yourself -- alternative map to VT Libraries website. In case you get lost in the various platforms mashed together in the library's online presence.
Fine print: Pencek's handouts are published in this guide under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. So you can adapt, slice, and dice the files for reuse, provided that you give me appropriate credit, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests that Bruce Pencek endorses you or your (re)use of his content.
- How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography (from Cornell)Annotated bibliographies bridge the chasm separating mere lists of citations from fully written-out research. You must of course do your citations correctly, but it can be tricky to craft annotations that tie the items together in support of your specific research task.
Citation: acknowledging and sharing knowledge
- Avoiding PlagiarismResources for answering the questions: What is plagiarism? When do you need to give credit? How do you know when something is common knowledge? Includes advice about best practices for avoiding accidental plagiarism and a Should I Cite This?" visual guide. From Purdue's OWL Online Writing Lab.
- Citation Ethics and Citation ManagersTopic guide with pointers on citation style guides, reference managers, and guidance about legally using works other people have written or created.
- Find, use persistent links to library resources Persistent links are URLs that connect users directly to an article, ebook, ejournal, or library database by clicking a link embedded in a webpage. Use them in your citations, notes, and communications because they are the unique, permanent web addresses of those resources. When sharing a persistent link with other current VT people (say, in Canvas), use a link that contains ezproxy.lib.vt.edu, which routes them through the university authentication system. Thus: https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/10.1177/0002716290510001005 When writing for non-VT audiences (your articles, dissertations), delete the ezproxy stuff. Thus for a link in the body of your online writing, use https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716290510001005, and in the formal (unlinked) citation in your references list/bibliography, write DOI: 10.1177/0002716290510001005. Other forms of persistent links include Permalinks (in Ebsco databases), DOIs [document object identifiers] (in most journal publishers), Document URLs (in ProQuest databases), Stable URLs (in JSTOR), and Handles (in VTechWorks).
- DOI look-up tool from Crossref Easy service to find DOIs for works in your reference list or bibliography. Copy/paste your list into an online form, and the service will locate the DOIs (if available) and paste them into the list. Use any reference style, although this tool works best if your references are formatted in a consistent and standard style.
Citing books, articles, and government publications
- VT Citation and Style Manuals GuidesDirectory to the official style manuals as well as simplified digests (eg, Purdue OWL) for writing and citation in many academic disciplines. The scholarly societies that publish style guides revise their standards from time to time, so you should always verify which revision or edition your instructor or publisher prefers.
- Citation Help (APA, MLA, Chicago) -- from Radford University Our friends down the highway, RU librarians provide detailed libguides to help create references and in-text citations for your papers and projects: APA 7th ed. Color-coded examples. (See tips video on guide format.) Chicago 17th ed. (mostly for Chicago notes/bibliography style) MLA 8th ed. Color-coded examples. Most of the information in these guides is freely accessible, but links to RU subscriptions and training modules work only for current RU students or employees. It's likely you can find Tech's copies through our Databases A-Z directory or Discovery Search.
- How to Cite US Government Documents in APA Citation Style This guide from the Cornell University Library provides general principles for citing US Government documents in student research papers in APA format, along with examples by type of document, based on the 7th edition.
Citing maps and data
Your responsibility to cite your sources isn't limited to books and articles.
- How to Cite Data (Michigan State)Comprehensive libguide from MSU Libraries provides general rules for data citation, with examples for citing datasets and tabular data in principal style manuals used in social science.
- Why Should I Cite Data? (video) Short video explains the Why and the How of citing data, embedded in the Citing Data guide at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, a major data repository for social science. (VT's institutional membership in ICPSR is provided by the University Libraries.)
- Citing Maps Provides examples in APA and MLA style for several kinds of paper and online maps. Part of citation libguide from Western Washington University
- Maps and Atlases: Citing Maps Provides a basic format for citing many kinds of maps and other cartographic resources. Part of an extensive libguide from NC State University.
Underneath good citations are good practices to manage your notes and evidence (qualitative and quantitative alike).
Data management plans, long required by most major funders in STEM research grants, are increasingly expected for empirical social science and interdisciplinary humanities funded research as well.
Scholars working in those domains will find are some good tips in Data management plans for historians: How to document and protect your research by Susan L. Collins, a librarian at Carnegie Mellon University. (Perspectives on History, October 2017).
Fair use for instructors
- Copyright and TEACH Act ResourcesHandy guidance about what US permits about using physical and digital copies of copyrighted materials in teaching. From Yale University's office of general counsel.
Honor Codes at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech upholds the principles of academic and professional integrity through several honor systems. Expectations, procedures and penalties depend on the affiliation of the student.
- Undergraduate Academic Intergity and Honor Code Policy and Manual.
- Graduate Honor System and Graduate Honor System Constitution.
- Corps of Cadets Honor Code and Honor Manual
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Honor Code and Professional Code of Conduct Handbook
- VTC School of Medicine Honor Code
Outside the realm of academic integrity, the university’s Student Code of Conduct sets standards of behavior for students at all levels and lays out procedures for dealing with violations.