Researching Topics Associated with Women and Politics in a Global Context
There are many starting points for conducting research.
What's the first place most people turn to for any "research" question
You guessed it, the free Internet.
It may be first, and it may have some good leads, but real "research"
can't end with free Internet sites.
Starting First On The Free Internet
Things the free Internet is good for:
| Things the free Internet is not so good for:
- Rather general searches. Ex: women's studies
- Careful standardized, indexed terminology and usefully organized presentation.
To be comprehensive, you need to think up lots of synonyms and permutations;
variants make a difference. Try the search women immigration
and then the search "women immigrants" and compare
the results (A fuller search using synonyms would be women OR gender
"immigrant women" OR "women immigrants" migrant(s)
OR migration OR immigrants)
- Getting to academic/scholarly/analytical articles and other research
that is on the free web, but weeding out extraneous, outdated,
non-scholarly, personal statements, ads, and factually incorrect information
-- results are a hodgepodge
- GETTING TO MOST ACADEMIC/SCHOLARLY MATERIAL AT ALL, SINCE MOST ISN'T
ON THE FREE INTERNET
Things that make free Internet searches somewhat better, for academic assignments:
- Use advanced search capabilities of search engines. In Google regular search,
put phrases in quotation marks and use ORs. In Google advanced, use the search
boxes for phrases and synonyms. Try limiting to domain edu or org and try
limiting the keywords to webpage titles.
- Read the information critically. Ask yourself if the author is an authority
on the subject; if you can determine how current the information is; if you
can figure out the purpose intended (inform, persuade, sell, entertain, etc.);
and most of all: might I be able to find better sources of information on
this subject? For help becoming a critical Internet user, try the Evaluating
Websites tutorial and the Checklist
for Evaluating Websites
- Use the Internet for news, information from organizations, and as a springboard to additional and
likely better sources of academic/scholarly information.
Examples of using the free Internet for ideas and as a springboard to academic/scholarly
Search : "gender quotas" in Google.
Some of the results:
The representation of women worldwide presently stands at below 14% in
lower houses of parliament. Given the slow rate at which ...
www.idea.int/gender/quotas.htm - 24k - Cached - Similar pages
What is this site?
ifeminists.com > editorial >
... feminist groupthink. And according to a recent Time magazine article, gender
quotas are meeting with growing resistance. In Denmark ...
www.ifeminists.net/introduction/ editorials/2003/1118roberts.html - 8k - Cached - Similar pages
What is this site?
kenchertow.com | Title IX
TITLE IX. Gender quotas are causing the loss of wrestling programs and opportunities
for young men. I encourage everyone in the wrestling ...
www.kenchertow.com/coachs_corner/title_ix_quotas.html - 24k - Cached - Similar pages
What is this site? Is it relevant?
Using the web as a springboard:
Wide Angle. Ladies First | PBS
... Tutsis die. See more facts. Gender quotas are applied because there is marked
gender inequality in elected bodies. With quotas, the ...
www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/shows/rwanda/ - 26k - Sep 5, 2004 - Cached - Similar pages
Follow the "read more" link and a footnote to an essay in a book; look the book up in Madcat.
This is an academic paper. What makes something an academic paper or article?
- Published in an academic journal, which has gone through a selection and
editing process (sometimes vetted further by "peer review" -- academic
peers of the author(s) evaluate the article. They recommend whether or not
it should be accepted for publication as is or with changes they suggest. Papers presented at academic conferences also go through a vetting process, usually from the abstract alone.
- Scholarly analysis, with footnotes documenting where this fits in the scholarly
discourse on the topic
- New research and analysis
- Additional clues: length of the article, presence of data, academic affiliation
of author(s), word "journal" in the name of the publication; there
may be opinions expressed, but the author is an authority on the subject &/or
writing something labelled an editorial and published in an academic journal
- Not immediate. It takes time to analyze, write, submit for publication, go through peer review, get accepted for publication, and get actually published. E-publishing shortens this somewhat, but this does not account for most of the time it takes for an academic article to appear.
While there are some such articles on the free web, most academic articles are not on the web. Databases to try for this and other searches: Academic
Search and Proquest
among the general (all topics) databases; Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS) and Web of Knowledge/Social Sciences Citation Index on politics and public affairs; and GenderWatch,
Women's Issues, Women's
Studies International among the women-focused databases.
- Don't use "women" as a search term in the women-focused databases.
- Use or equivalent icons to click through to the full-text of many articles.
- Databases use different symbols for truncation (lopping off the endings
leaving a wordstem search). Madcat uses a "?"; many databases use
- A database may have a mixture of fulltext and citations-only, scholarly
and non-scholarly articles; use whatever features the database offers to find
out more information about particular publications.
- If the database allows parentheses, group within parentheses an operation
you want the search to do first.
- If the article is a book review, search for the book in Madcat.
- Use indexed terms/subject headings whenever possible. Often this means starting
with a keyword search, then seeing what subject headings a useful item received.
- When searching for terms throughout the fulltext of articles, see if the
database offers a way to have the terms be near each other, instead of just
Starting First in Madcat
Things Madcat is good for:
- General searches, starting with keyword(s) anywhere in the record
- Standardized subject headings -- no need to put in a variety of synonyms
once you see subject headings on point.
- Academic/scholarly books and book chapters
- Finding location on campus of books, journals, etc., including links
to electronic versions
- Finding some content-rich items on the free web that have been catalogued
Things Madcat is not good for:
- Finding articles within journals
- Very current topics that have not yet been researched/analyzed by
scholars (exs.: the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11"; The Swan makeover t.v. show )
- Getting to most of the items in the catalog electronically (most are
for print materials) and immediately (need to find most physically in
Keyword "women candidate?"
The list retrieved has a high degree of relevance to the search.
All the books with the author space blank are anthologies, works with many
contributors and one or more editors. Each chapter or essay is about as long
as a journal article.
There is some variety in the types of subject headings the cataloguing records
use for the books retrieved.
Keyword: (women or gender) and "political participation" Where do the keywords turn up in the cataloging records?
Advantages to WSI:
- Combined index to books, articles in women's studies journals, dissertations,
reports, conference papers, and some websites on women/gender
- If you've tried a variety of search terms and nothing turns up on
your topic in this database, that probably means there isn't anything
written about it -- or enough to do a paper on it, and you should consider
Disadvantages to WSI
- Items indexed require further look-up through Madcat, , etc.
- WSI is a composite database from several sources, including
the UW System Women's Studies Librarian's Office, and the subject terms
are retained from the sources (not standardized across all of WSI),
so best to add synonyms in your search
BOOLEAN search elections and (local or municipal or school or city or town or village)
BOOLEAN search (media or advert* or cartoon or representation or portrayal or image) and (candidate or elect* or politician or legislat* or officeholder or mayor or Congressw* or Senator)
This page is http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/Talks/WS643Fall2004.htm
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Studies Librarian's Office Homepage.
Email the Women's Studies Librarian: wiswsl at (replace with "@") library.wisc.edu