A Go-To Database for Politics and Education

| April 6, 2012

One of the most comprehensive databases covering journals in political science is Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, available as part of the ProQuest suite of resources.  This database provides citations, abstracts, and indexing of the international serials literature in political science and its associated fields, including international relations, law, and public administration/policy.  ProQuest indicates that this resource covers the following subject areas, among others:

  • Comparative politics
  • Economic policy
  • Government/political systems
  • History and theory of political science
  • Political behavior
  • Political economy
  • Political psychology
  • Politics and communication
  • Politics and law
  • Politics and society
  • Public administration

The database  is indexed using  over 3,000 main subject terms; the thesaurus of these official subject headings is available online.  Among  “controlled vocabulary” headings relevant to politics and education are the following:

  • Cultural capital
  • Education
  • Education work relationship
  • Educational ideologies
  • Educational inequality
  • Educational policy
  • Educational reform
  • Educational systems
  • Educational vouchers
  • Government policy
  • Human capital
  • Public schools
  • Radical pedagogy
  • Schools
  • Tracking (education)

As with essentially all online databases, it’s not necessary to search using established subject terms; in many cases it makes sense to start with so-called natural language words or phrases for your subject, and then, by looking closely at on-target search results, to determine the official headings most often used to index works on your topic.  We find that searching by a combination of natural language or free-text terms and controlled vocabulary terms may yield the most satisfactory search results, though since indexing is often inconsistent, an argument could also be made for searching strictly by free-text, natural language terms.  There is unfortunately no absolutely guaranteed strategy for getting all possible relevant search results; it’s not infrequently a matter of trying as many synonyms, related terms, and alternative phrases as you can think of.  I often think in terms of outsmarting the database, and seen this way, searching can be an adventure (though sometimes it may seem totally frustrating!).

Here is an example of a fairly straightforward and successful search, combining several official subject headings and an author’s name, and including limiters in various categories (source type, publication type, and peer-reviewed journal status):

The retrieved results display looks like this:

This is the complete record for the first result:

This record includes a link to a PDF version of the full text; in the absence of this option, the e-Link feature allows you to determine whether the article is available from other e-journal providers.  In this case, there are 10 additional links to the full text article from multiple sources.

For an extensive overview of political science resources, both print and electronic, be sure to consult the page on Columbia’s Digital Social Sciences Center website at http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/dssc/polisci.html.