Finding a Good Topic
Your topic needs to be neither too broad that you can't adequately do an analysis within the scope of the class or too narrow that there is not enough existing research to analyse. The fact that you need to have your topic approved by Dr. Kilby is a built in safety net. Here are some tried and true tips for identifying a good topic.
- Explore the topics listed in the syllabus as a starting point.
- Explore topics defined in books or quality reliable web sites (including wikipedia!)
- Browse the popular press for topics (beware that current events don't make good topics but the underlying issues illustrated by current events can be fruitful.)
- Browse scholarly databases or journals.
Finding Research Literature
Finding the research literature on your topic typically necessitates your using multiple search engines and search techniques including the following:
- Search article databases directly (Google Scholar, EconLit, PAIS, World Political Science Abstracts, SSCI, Scopus)
- Mine the bibliographies of "on point" articles to find supporting and challenging studies.
- Identify the seminal (or most influential/pioneering) works
Foreign Aid Article Databases
Google Scholar EconLit with Full Text (EBSCO) PAIS International (ProQuest)
Citations and abstracts of journal articles, books, working papers and dissertations from 1969 to present based on the Journal of Economic Literature's subject classification and supported by the American Economic Association (AEA). This enhanced version of EconLit includes the full text of all AEA journals and roughly 600 other scholarly journals.
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (ProQuest)
The Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS) International database contains references for over half a million journal articles, books, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference papers, publications of international agencies, microfiche, Internet material, and more. Newspapers and newsletters are not indexed. In addition to English, some of the indexed materials are published in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages.
Social Sciences Citation Index (Thomson Reuters)
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (WPSA) provides abstracts and indexing of the international literature of political science and international relations, along with complementary fields, including international law and public administration/policy. The database provides abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from over 1,500+ serials publications and also provides abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertations and working papers. The database is simultaneously searchable with other ProQuest databases such as ProQuest Newspapers.
Provides access to current bibliographic information and cited references from the journal literature in the physical and social sciences. Search by article title word, journal title, author, cited author or reference, or address word (e.g. author's institution). Coverage begins 1956 to present.
Provides abstracts and citations for peer-reviewed journals in all major disciplines. Offers comprehensive coverage of the scientific, technical, medical, geographic and social sciences (including arts and humanities). Includes complete contents of GEOBASE multidisciplinary database.
Working with Data
There are at least three common ways to find data for analysis.
- Find data sets in indices such as Statitisical Insights.
- Identify data sets used by others via their research papers.
- Browse relevant & known data sources (such as those listed below).
Once you've identified a promising data look for these features
- Make sure the datapoints are populated (many databases indicate that they have data by location or time period but the data is incomplete)
- Read the data documentation to be sure that the variables measure what you think they do.
- Make sure you have enough data points for analysis.
- Make sure the data is comparable
- Checks the units for uniformity.
Development Aid Data
"AidData collects, curates, and publishes data on more than $5.5 trillion dollars in development finance from 90 bilateral and multilateral agencies at the project level. All of this information is available in our searchable database of more than one million development finance activities". OECD Statistics USAID - Sub Saharan Africa
USAID's page on the charitible efforts made toward Africa's Sub-Saharan regions. World Bank World Development Indicators (WDI)
"World Development Indicators (WDI) publication is the World Bank's premier annual compilation of data about development. The 2007 WDI includes more than 900 indicators." The WDI and GDF Online is owned and copyrighted by the World Bank and the users may not copy, reverse engineer, modify, decompile or disassemble WDI and GDF Online or its operating software. While every effort has been made to ensure the high quality and accuracy of WDI and GDF Online, the Bank does not warrant that the functions contained in WDI and GDF Online shall meet the users? requirements or that the operation of WDI Online shall be uninterrupted or error-free. Statistical Insight (ProQuest)
Indexing and abstracting (with select full text from 2007) of statistical resources from U.S. state government, business and research institute statistical publications. Tables for U.S. government and business reports.
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Creating APA Citations
Refworks A subscription service that is integrated with most library databases for managing citations in many formats.
Research & Documentation Online A free reliable but not authoritative manual for creating APA (and other style) citations by hand.
APA Style Guide to Electronic References An authoritative manual for creating APA citations for online only sources (the complete APA Manual is not online)