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ECON 105: Search Strategies for Class Project

This Research Guide contains readings for the course as well as additional materials from the library and the Internet.

Keyword Ideas

When searching the library book catalog and other databases, try using as many forms of words as possible to find the most materials. Many database records have these words as subject headings or in summaries or descriptions of an item's content. The obvious example would be:

  • economy/economics or even try truncating the word--econ*
  • use the country or place name (Japan, Germany, etc.)

Also use words such as society, culture, history, consequences or class to tease out items that may speak to the cultural or class impacts of various economic systems and institutional decisions. Also, once you learn what countries or regions were involved you can add those names. For example; Africa, Asia, Kenya, Hong Kong, Korea, etc.

Book Catalog

Let's take the topic of colonialism as an example. Begin searching broadly. A keyword search for colonialism finds dozens of unrelated titles.

The British colonial system formed much of present world, so let's use that narrower topic. Search the book catalog for colonialism.

Seeing these unrelated results, let's edit the search and switch the search type to subject browse. Now we're getting somewhere!  The system shows that colonialism is not a valid subject heading. But, there are three suggested subject headings, the best of which appears to be Imperialism (see below):

Subject Headings

And in fact, the Imperialism heading has 32 items in it. If we click on the subject heading, we find some great books:

  • British imperialism, 1688-2000
  • Empire : the rise and demise of the British world order and the lessons for global power

These books will probably be very useful in researching British colonial practices and have subject headings which could lead to more sources.

Once you get the book, scan the table of contents to find relevant chapters. For more specific topics, look in the index at the back of the book. In this case, we can find pages directly related to slavery in the British colonies, the effects of disease, as well as specific people and companies. Also, look at the books directly next to the book you found in the catalog.  Often, similar books will be right next to the book you found in your search.

Databases (eBooks and Journals)

Once you have found a book or two, you might have more keywords or concepts to search for. 

eBook Collections

The best place to start in databases is our eBook collections. These have over 100,000 titles, 50% more than we have  of physical books.

Journal Databases

Quality Internet Sources

Last, but not least are some quality Internet sources for current information about countries, their economies, and in some cases, book-length histories.

  • Background Notes (State Dept.) - now known as "Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets." These provide brief content on the relations of each country with the United States and include links to various official pages about the country.
  • CIA World Factbook - This site has information about every nation in the world, and each entry covers the geography, government, economy and people of each country.
  • Country information from the World Bank - these entries have an demographic information on the nations of the world, plus information on World Bank engagement in each country.
  • Country Studies - these books from the Library of Congress cover more than 80 countries in detail (mostly Cold War "adversaries").  Each book has a great history of the country covered, but they were often published decades ago, so any other information is well out-of -date. DOWNLOAD the PDF VERSION of the book. It will take a while, but be worth it..