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IR 325: North-South Relations in the Global Economy: Researching a Debate Topic

Quick Guide to Finding Data for the IR 325 Debate Project for Dr. Iva Bozovic, Fall 2021

Background Information and Identifying an Issue

Initial use of databases [i.e., scholarly search engines] designed to access a large volume of materials can be helpful in scanning the literature on a particular topic of debate and obtaining an initial understanding of how scholars, journalists, and others have studied it. Below are sources that facilitate this approach to understanding the literature on a topic.

USC Libraries Library Catalog

A segment of the Libraries' general search engine that allows you to search for books, government documents, and other print and online materials. It does not include articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals. Those can be accessed using the databases listed below.

These databases provide multidisciplinary coverage of resources.

  • JSTOR -- an multidisciplinary archive of scholarly, full-text social science, humanities, and science journals. Covers a significant number of key academic journals in the field of international relations. The archive is a good source of locating early research on a topic but not to find the most recent studies. For that go to...
  • ProQuest Multiple -- multidisciplinary database that covers all subject areas. It's contents include newspaper, magazine, and scholarly journal articles. This is an excellent place to begin your search for information about a topic of interest. Contents are updated daily so it is also good place to go for the most recent coverage of an event or topic.
  • Google Scholar -- useful resource for identifying who has cited a particular work. Go here for directions about how to set up Google Scholar to link to materials we own or subscribe to electronically.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.

Key Databases in IR

Below are links to the most important databases that support the study of international relations and development.

  • Columbia International Affairs Online [CIAO] -- provides the full text of a wide range of scholarship books, working papers from universities and research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, and proceedings from conferences.
  • IREON [International Relations and Area Studies Gateway] – a database produced by research organizations, libraries, and documentation centers from various European countries that enables searching for journals, collected essays, conference and research papers, official publications, books, and international treaties in the areas of foreign and security policy, international cooperation and development, international economics, European and transatlantic issues, and foreign cultural policy.
  • Public Affairs Information Services [PAIS] -- indexes selective subjects and bibliographic access to periodicals, books, hearings, reports, gray literature, government publications, Internet resources, and other publications from 120 countries. Includes historical coverage from 1915 to the present.
  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts -- provides indexing of the international journal literature in political science and its complementary fields, including international relations, law, and public administration and policy. Over 1,700 titles are monitored for coverage and, of these, 67% are published outside of the United States.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.

Specialized Databases

Topics related to international development are not only studied by scholars in international relations but can be examined in related areas of study. For example, the impact of development on the environment can be studied by scholars in ecology and environmental studies. The role of private companies in promoting development can be studied by researchers in business and law. Below are additional databases you should consider searching if your topic is likely to intersect disciplines outside of international relations.

Business and Economics

ABI/Inform Complete -- comprehensive database, that features thousands of full-text journals, dissertations, working papers, key business and economics periodicals such as the Economist, country-and industry-focused reports, and downloadable data. Its international coverage gives researchers a complete picture of companies and business trends around the world. business periodicals on accounting, advertising, business, economics, finance, human resources, law, management, marketing, taxation and other related subjects.

EconLit -- the fundamental research tool in economics, providing  access to the international literature on economics since 1969. Topics covered include economic development, forecasting, and history; fiscal theory; monetary theory and financial institutions; business finance; public finance; and international, labor, health care, managerial, demographic, regional, agricultural, and urban economics; country studies, and government regulations.


Communication Source --  provides comprehensive access to scholarly research in areas related to communication and mass media. It offers cover-to-cover indexing and abstracts for over 370 journals, and selected coverage of over 230 more, for a combined coverage of over 600 titles. Furthermore, this database includes full-text for more than 240 journals.

Environment Policy

Environment Index -- extensive coverage in applicable areas of agriculture, ecosystem ecology, energy, renewable energy sources, natural resources, marine and freshwater science, geography, waste management, environmental technology, environmental law, public policy, social impacts, urban planning, and more. It covers air, water, energy, and land resources from a policy point of view, including from a global perspective.

Pollution Abstracts -- combines information on scientific research and government policies in a single resource. Topics of growing concern are extensively covered from the standpoints of atmosphere, emissions, mathematical models, effects on people and animals, and environmental action in response to global pollution issues. To ensure comprehensive coverage, material from conference proceedings and hard-to-find documents has been summarized along with information from primary journals in the field.

Water Resources Abstracts -- provides summaries from 1967 to the present of the world's technical, scientific, and public policy literature on water-related topics covering the characteristics, conservation, control, pollution, treatment, use and management of water resources as well as the legal aspects of water supply, use, control, or management.


HeinOnline Law Journal Library -- contains more than 2,400 law and law-related periodicals. Subjects covered include criminal justice, political science, technology, human rights, and more. Coverage for all journals is from inception and goes through the most currently published issues allowed based on contracts with publishers. About 90% of journals are available through the current issue or volume. Search by article title, author, subject, state or country published, full text, and narrow by date.

Society and Social Issues

Family and Society Studies Worldwide --  comprehensive resource of research, policy, and practice literature in the fields of family science, human ecology and development, and social welfare. The database contains citations drawn from a wide range of social science disciplines including anthropology, sociology, psychology, demography, health sciences, education, economics, law, history, and social work.

Sociological Abstracts -- indexes the international literature in sociology and related disciplines, such as, economics, community development, political science and public policy. Records added after 1974 contain in-depth and non-evaluative abstracts of journal articles. Many records from key journals in sociology, published since 2001, also include the references cited in the bibliography of the source article.

Women Studies International -- covers the core disciplines in women’s studies to the latest scholarship in feminist research, including in the field of international relations. Nearly 800 essential sources include: journals, newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, books, book chapters, proceedings, reports, theses, dissertations, NGO studies, important websites and web documents, and grey literature. Over 2,000 periodical sources are represented.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.

Research Tips

Research Tip 1: Search Terms

A common challenge to finding relevant articles that support your analysis of a debate topic is identifying relevant search terms. Try using keywords instead of phrases when searching databases. So, instead of searching for What are the barriers to accessing healthcare in developing countries, use the advanced search option in the database and enter the term "access" in the first search box, "healthcare" in the second search box, and "developing countries" in the third search box. Note that most databases allow you to add additional search boxes.

Also be sure to try different searches using a variety of terms and synonyms for your keywords. For example, if you include the phrase developing countries in your search terms, you could miss out on articles that use term developing nations, use the less-common third world, or only address barriers to healthcare in a specific country, such as India, without using the term developing anywhere in the article.

Research Tip 2: Citation Tracking

A useful strategy to expand the scope of articles you find is to paste the title of the article from a database, such as, JSTOR or ProQuest Multiple into Google Scholar [link to Google Scholar from the USC Libraries’ main web page by scrolling down under Database Quick Links]. This allows you to see if anyone else has subsequently cited that article in their research by clicking on the “Cited by” link [e.g., Cited by 45--meaning the article you found has been cited in 45 other works since it was first published]. This is an excellent way to find related and identify more recent studies on your topic. Also, be sure to scan the list of sources the author used [footnotes or endnotes] within an article to identify additional relevant sources.