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A Guide to Research Proposals

Created for PO 200 Approaches to Political Science. Useful for anyone needing to write a research proposal in the Social Sciences.

Starting with Google

Google is a powerful, easy-to-use search engine that you probably already use all the time. Why wouldn't you use it for research? It is totally understandable for you to turn to Google to find some materials you could use for your research proposal project. Here are some tips for making the most of your Googling. 

In order to find some of the research already done on a specific topic, you can do a search in Google Scholar, over just a regular Google search. Google Scholar looks the same as Google, but searches a specific set of results: scholarly articles, books, abstracts and court decisions.

Some of the articles you will find will be freely available to you right through your Google Scholar search results, either because the entire journal is Open Access or because the author of the article has made their work available to anyone. 

Some of the articles will say that you have to pay for access. DON'T DO IT. You pay enough in tuition and fees to then be paying on top of that to read research. When you come up against a pay wall, turn to the library's resources. There are two specific tools that can help you: Citation Linker and Interlibrary Loan.

Citation Linker

Sometimes, when using Google or Google Scholar, you come across an interesting or relevant article that is worth your time to read. If you're on-campus, you might have no trouble accessing the full-text of certain articles because, even though you found it using Google, you are using the library's resources to actually get to it. If you're an online or distance student, you might face pay walls where the journal or publisher demands money (a lot of money) to be able to read those articles. SHU Library has two tools that can help if you ever find yourself in this situation: Citation Linker and Inter Library Loan.  

The video below explains how to use Citation Linker to find an article within the library's databases. 

Interlibrary Loan

Although we try to provide access to as many materials as possible, sometimes SHU Library will not have the full-text of a particular article, or a copy of a physical book. In those cases, you can turn to InterLibrary Loan, or ILL to get the materials you need. The video below describes the process of initiating a request. Electronic articles take about 2-3 business days to be delivered to your account, while physical books will take longer. Plan accordingly to give yourself enough time to request and receive your items. 

Using Library Databases

You may or may not find all of your resources through a Google Scholar search. If you don't find as much as you would like, consider using the library's databases and other resources to continue (or start) your search.

This section has interactive tutorials that will teach you how to approach searching in some of the library's databases. All the tutorials will open in a new window or tab.

If you are unsure of how to get started when searching library databases, complete this Keywords tutorial first:

Here are some interactive tutorials to help you navigate some of our databases:

Using QuickSearch


Help with Citations:

Some professors will tell you a specific citation style to use.

Most databases have tools that will generate citations for you--YAY! These are great time savers, but remember to double check that they are accurate. Here is a video about how to find the citation tool in QuickSearch (and other EBSCO databases).