Friday, May 16, 2014

Dialog indexing

Module 1
Database: collection of machine-readable information accessible through a computer aka a file.

Record: discrete information unit

Field: distinct information part

Information producer/provider company compiling database records, responsible for content

Professional online service search system providing multiple database access

Database types
Full text Complete text of document
Directory Factual information about organization, companies, people, products, materials
Numeric Data in tabular/statistically manipulated form, with added text
Hybrid Mix of full text, citation and abstract records

Constructing a database
1. Create a linear file of records received. Assign sequential accession numbers, uniquely.
2. Label record files – au (author), ti (title). If field is word-indexed, label words within field. Exclude stop words.
3. Create the base index – all words and phrases from fields containing subject-related terms.
4. Create the additional index – all terms from remaining fields.

Basic index field = suffixed fields
SELECT commands search the Basic index unless term is qualified by suffix. To qualify a term to a given field, enter a forward slash followed by a two-letter suffix

Suffix/Code Field Name Indexing
None All basic index fields Word
/AB Abstract Word
/DE (/DF) Descriptor Word/Phrase
/ID (IF) Identifier Word/Phrase
/NT Note Word
/TI Title Word

Suffix Example
None S Inner(W)City(W)Neighbourhood?
/AB S Neighbourhood(W)Affiliation?/AB
/DE S Manipulative(w)materials/DE
S Mathematics activities/DE
/ID S Affiliate(W)behavior/ID
/NT S Child(W)Development/NT
/TI S Geometric(W)thinking/TI

Controlled vocabulary
Descriptors subject-related terms taken from a thesaurus/controlled vocabulary list, assigned to records by professional indexers
Bound descriptors/descriptor phrases multiple-word descriptors, entered into index as each individual word/whole phrase
Identifiers terms assigned to record by indexer generally not from controlled vocabulary. Typically proper nouns, geographic locations, or words not yet in thesauri

Proximity operators
Operator Function Examples Terms retrieved
Words adjacent/in order specific Library(w)science?
Library ( )science?
Library science
Library sciences
(nW) Up to n intervening words in specified order Library(2w)science? Library science
Library sciences
Library with science
Library and information science
(N) Words adjacent and in either order (near operator) Library(N)science? Library science
Library sciences
Science library
Sciences library
(nN) Up to n intervening words, and in either order Library (1N) science Library science
Sciences library
Library with science materials
Science related library
(F) Words in some field, no word order/proximity specified Socrates(F)oz
Both terms in title/abstract
Both terms in the field
database specific
Words in some descriptor unit
Used to link subheadings
Zinc(L)toxicity Zinc as descriptor heading linked to toxicity as subheading
Words in same subfield or paragraph Napoleon (S) France Napoleon and France in same subfield or paragraph

Selecting descriptor terms
If you select a multiple-word phrase, including spaces and punctuation, Dialog retrieves the phrase only if it is an exact descriptor or identifier. e.g. s teaching skills, teaching(w)skills/de, s teaching (w) skills

If you select a single word and restrict with the suffix /DE, Dialog retrieves the word if it appears anywhere in a descriptor term. e.g. s teaching/de

To retrieve a single-word descriptor, but not descriptor phrases containing word, use the suffix /DF, e.g. s teaching/df

Basic index – file 148
Search suffix Display code Field name Select examples
None None All basic index fields S American(W)Bank?
/AB AB Abstract S Citicorp/AB
/CN CN Case name S American(W) Business(W)Service?/CN
/CO CO Company name S Citicorp/CO
/UN UN Ultimate company name
/CP CP Caption S Photograph/CP
/DE DE Descriptor/concept term S Europe/DE
/EN EN Event name S Joint(W)Ventures/EN
/GN GN Geographic name S Europe/GN
/IN IN Industry name S Banking/IN
/LP LP Lead paragraph S Chemical(W)Banking/LP
/NM NM Named person S Gates(1N)Phyllis/NM
/PN PN Product name S Banking(W)Institutions/PN
/ST ST Statue name S Glass(W)Steagall(W)Act/ST
/TI TI Title S Europe(2W)Profits/TI
/TN TN Brand name S Maestro/TN
/TX TX Text S European(W)Operator?/TX
/XF None All basic index fields except full text S Foreign(W)Operations/XF

All indexing is word.
Searching a phrase in the Basic Index of File 148 automatically searches the descriptor field since it is the only phrase-indexed field in the Basic Index.
Searching the word-indexed fields in the Basic Index using proximity connectors to indicate how close you want the terms to appear in relation to one another.

Module 2
Basic Index

Search suffix Field name Indexing
/AB Abstract Word
/DE Descriptor Word/Phrase
/ID Identifier Word/Phrase
/LP Lead Paragraph  Word
/TI Title Word
/TX Text Word

Additional Index (Prefixed fields)
Search suffix Field name Indexing
AU= Author Phrase
BN= ISBN Phrase
CS= Corporate Source Word
JN= Journal Name Phrase
LA= Language Phrase
PD= Publication Date Phrase MMDDYYYY
PY= Publication Year Phrase YYYY
WD= Word Count Numeric
CO= Corporate Name
DT= Document Type 
PC= Product Code/Standard Industrial Classification
TS= Ticker Symbol

Searching the additional indexes
Using a prefix is required when searching the Additional Indexes (S teaching skills and dt=conference?)

To SELECT a group of entries from the same prefixed field, use parentheses (s teaching skills) and dt=(conference paper or journal article)

Use the EXPAND command in phrase-indexed fields (additional indexes) to see how phrases appear in particular field index

Expand command tips
Enter the appropriate prefix for searched index.

Enter only the first part of the name/search term to go to the right index search.

Examine the E numbers list carefully.

Never enter any truncation or proximity operators because Expand is completely literal, character by character.

Selecting the items off the EXPAND list
Select E (or R) numbers off the EXPAND list using either the OR operator or a comma between individual E numbers, or the colon operator to select a range.

Page through up to 50 entries (12 items at a time) on the list by entering P or PAGE. Once you reach 50, must select your E numbers, as you will start a new list of entries.
SELECT all relevant E numbers before entering another EXPAND command. Each new command erases the previous command.

Phrase Indexing versus Word Indexing Tips
Use right hand truncation to pick up multiple endings to a phrase.

Searching general(W)electric in the word-indexed company field (/CO) will retrieve all records where the words occur directly next to one another in that specific order in the /CO field – regardless of any variation in the beginning or end of the company name.

Choosing a database
Have a request.

  1. Use the information list. Consider
    • Clearly defined subject
    • Purpose of search, overview
    • Topic perspective - academic, popular
    • Information quantity
    • Information type - complete article, abstract
    • Known sources - authors, journals, papers
  2. Determine database(s) to provide best information. Consider
    • Content
    • Coverage
    • Currency
    • Cost
Requesting the database description opens another web browser. Dialog is not case sensitive.
Type select [search query]
Click search
Dialog returns a list of databases with topic information and the number of records found. Can reorder results by sorting.
Check databases to search and click “Begin Databases” to run strategy.

Planning a search strategy
  1. Select additional search terms
  2. Use search word variants, truncation
  3. Use proximity connectors to search phrases
  4. Search exact record phrase; search phrases containing stop words, punctuation, hyphens, special characters
  5. Narrow search for precision

Connector Description Example Retrieves
(N) Searches adjacent terms in either order Fiber?(n)optic? Fiber optics
Optics fiber
(W) Searches adjacent terms in exact order Flex(w)time Flex time
(#n) or (#w) Allows additional terms to occur between words Market(5w)share Share of the long distance market
(S) Restricts words to the same paragraph Telecommunication?(S)sales Sales in the...

Logical operators
Logical operators Definition Example
Or Use to group synonymous terms when one must be present Ultraviolet or UV or Ultra (W) violet
AND Use to connect terms when both/all must be present Market(SN)share AND tennis(W)equipment
Using Classic Dialog search commands
Command Example When to use it 
Begin 9
B 9
B 9, 16 current
Business news
Use to begin with a file number to specify databases to be searched
Use current to restrict a search to the current year plus the previous year specified
Select telecommut?
S telecommut?
S merg? or acqui?
S s1 and s2
Use select to create a set of records (e.g. s1) that contains the specified terms

Managing search results
The item numbers can indicate a single record, a range or a non-sequential range of records, enter ALL to see all records.
Command Example When to use it
Type s1/6/1-3
T s 3/9/1,3
T s 2/6, k 1-5,8
To display search results in specified format
Display sets
Display a set of all sets created since the last BEGIN command

Refining a search
The basic index

Display code/search suffix Field name Indexing Select examples
/SL Slogan Word S(ALL)(W)ABOARD(W)/SL
/SP Spokesperson Word S JAMES(W)EARL/SP

The extract field (/XT) searches both the Abstract and Lead Paragraph fields.

Suffix allows searching only most important information within each record, helping to make more precise search strategies.

Suffixes append to the end of a search word, phrase, or set number. Suffixes can be separated by commas.

Additional indexes
These indexes indicate how to narrow a search further by using information other than the search subject. (Display code omits=) All but WD is phrase indexing; WD is numeric indexing.

Display Code/Search Prefix Field name Select examples
AA= RDS Accession number S AA=014621
CT= Concept term S CT=Market share
GC= Graphic code S GC=WOR
MT= Marketing term S MT=General research
RT= Record type S RT=Full text
SF= Special feature S SF=Table
SL= Slogan S SL=All Aboard America
None/SO= Source information
SP= Spokesperson SSP=James Earl Jones
UD=(None) Up to this date S UD=9999
WD= Word count WD>2000

Use truncation at end of a search term expressing a name to retrieve all name variations.
A colon is used to indicate a range of sequential entries to be retrieved.
The format for the Publication Date is usually YYYY, MM, DD (Year, Month, Day)

The Expand command
Use to verify spelling, punctuation, and other variations of the names in the field. Use the E Reference number(s) to SELECT desired entries.

Expand using appropriate prefix and term.

Select the E-numbered lines that contain variations.

Type S2/full/1 to see complete record.

Dialog applications

Dialog can help with a number of tasks:
Monitor competition Track articles
Plan production introduction Locate articles
Research industry development Keep literature updated
Check trademark/patent application/registrations with potential product line impact
Develop marketing strategies Locate market share data and published market research reports, print out
Find merger and acquisition candidates Screen companies based on financial parameters
Locate elusive company 12 million+ public, private, subsidiary, international company listings
Entering multiple operators

Repeat the same proximity operator to connect a series of search terms

Enter most precise operator first – W, N, L, S, F

Alternatively, use parentheses. Use around terms connected with logical operators so that these will be selected first. Select a set number in proximity to another set or to new search terms.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dialog lecture

Basic search example
B to begin
# for database (separate multiple by commas; shorten to abbreviations if searching similar databases)
n for database file number
? searches [search terms]
brackets indicate subject headings
Dialog tells you how many records are available
?T for type view results
s1 = set 1 records
s = view titles and descriptors (free format, browse)
1 = print

Set Items Description
Set number  Number of records containing hits Term(s) as entered in the SELECT COMMAND

Always enter a space after command. Any word/term except stop words can be selected. Phrases must be selected using the (w) command unless the term is a descriptor or identifier.

Multiple terms can be selected when using logical commands. To create a set for each term in the command, use SELECT STEPS (change, recombine terms e.g. bilingualism in Canada, then bilingualism in Belgium).

Open truncation ? retrieves all words beginning with, e.g. with comput? (computers, computer, etc.);
symbolises unlimited length with no intervening
Controlled-length truncation Retrieves all words beginning with a maximum number of letters following word stem
? [space] ? retrieves all words beginning with ? with maximum of one character following word stem
Imbedded character ? for character replacement letter for letter to retrieve either spelling e.g. organisation, organization
If more than one letter, use OR e.g., favor OR favour

Viewing records: TYPE command
Command format
?type s5/2/1-4

s5 /  2 /  1-4
Set number Format Items inclusively; item numbers can be a single record, a range (e.g., 1-4, 6, 9 or ALL/all)

If omitted, default becomes
Item Next record display
Format Format set typed
Set Last set created

LOGOFF log off system
Enter one select command for each concept, combining synonyms and alternative terms with OR logic.
Select the set numbers representing different concepts, combining them with AND logic.

Searching styles
Concept blocks  Break down logically with Boolean searching
Pearl growing "Gem" search for perfect record meeting search criteria
Successive fractions Extremely broad search - breakdown into finer divisions with more limits
Known item matching Situation known item, looking for specific item to verify existence

Stacking Enter several commands in a single line of typing separated by semicolons. A line can contain up to 240 characters.

Narrow search  Broaden
AND concept No concepts; limit
Use fewer terms Use more terms or subject headings
Use proximity operators Truncate left
Truncate right Use broader terms
Qualify/limit Remove qualifiers, limitations

Search the basic index/suffice fields
Select commands searches the entire Basic Index unless the term is qualified by a suffix. Using a suffix is an option when searching the Basic Index. To qualify a term to a given field, enter a slash (/) followed by two letter field suffix. Use a comma to specify either field.

Selecting descriptor terms
Include spaces and punctuation if exact descriptor single word restricted with descriptor, retrieves word anywhere in descriptor term, use DE

Retrieve single word using DF / IF

Searching numeric indexes
: Low/high ends range, e.g. 1986:1991
> Greater than
< Less than
>= Equal to/greater than
<= Equal to/less than

Exact phrases anywhere,
Adjacent/hear other words,
(sub)heading descriptors

Use for-:
Exact phrases anywhere,
Files not employing controlled vocabulary,
Phrases containing stop words, punctuation, hyphens and special characters
Phrases not in thesauri
Particularly new terms
Unusual expressions
Subjects marginally covered

Searching full-text files when using logical operators may be dangerously broad

Narrowing a search to decrease recall and increase proximity precision

Repeat proximity to connect series

Use parentheses

Correct order
– W, N, L, S, F

Use parentheses around connected terms to be processed first

Replace punctuation marks with a (W) operator.

To select from a phrase-indexed field, enter the exact bound phrase with all punctuation intact, if containing slash, apostrophe, or logical operator, enclose the phrase in quotation marks.

Precision versus Recall Search examples
Select command(s) Records Explanation
east and germany 3691 Two words appear in the same record
east(f)germany 3364 Two words appear in same Basic Index Field
east(w)germany 1852 Phrase appears in Basic Index
east(w)germany/ti 559 Phrase appears in title field
s east germany 2 Phrase appears as a Descriptor or Identifier

Searching on terms containing punctuation

To select from a word-indexed field, replace each punctuation mark with a (w) operator.

To select from a phrase-indexed field, enter the exact bound phrase with all punctuation intact. If the phrase contains a slash, apostrophe, or logical operator, enclose the full phrase in quotation marks.

Expand command

Expanding in the Basic Index: ?expand microcomputer

The EXPAND display pauses after every 12 lines. Use PAGE (or P) to see the next 12 lines. Up to 50 lines can be displayed.

Expanding to view the Online Thesaurus

To view the related terms, EXPAND the E number. Each related term is assigned a R reference number. An R-numbered list includes a code describing the relationship.

Expanding on terms containing punctuation

Do not use proximity operators or truncation.

The strings of characters entered after EXPAND is interpreted literally and simply inserted into the index where it fits alphabetically.

Selecting terms after expanding

To retrieve a single entry from an expand list, Select its E/R number. Be sure to SELECT before entering EXPAND. Each EXPAND command creates a new list and erases the previous one.

Selecting multiple terms

Retrieve multiple entries from same EXPAND list synonymously related, use OR logic. Retrieve sequential entries, use colons.

Expanding in additional indexes

Use EXPAND to check entry form for fields containing names.

For author’s name, enter surname and first initial.

For company’s name, enter first part then try variation with abbreviations, punctuation.
For journal name, start by EXPANDING on first word. Notice if database uses abbreviations. If needed, enter a different EXPAND.


Available to facilitate broad restrictions to retrieval. Entered as suffixes in a SELECT command. Limits are highly database specific.

Determine what limits are available – read Bluesheets, enter command HELP LIMIT n (with n being file number)

Enter suffixes in SELECT commands after /

Use /ENG more than LA=English. Use LA= field for other languages. EXPAND to verify entry form.

Current= current year plus the previous year

Expand fields if you’re not sure what a field has available.

Restrict publication date, SELECT from appropriate Additional Index. In databases with PY= field, enter years without prefix as a LIMIT suffix.



Bibliographic Citation
Directory Gives information/description
Business types
Numeric Demographic
Fulltext Complete article

Producers provide information, in which Dialog then makes searchable and accessible within minutes.

Content is constantly updated.

More access points include title, keywords, date, author

Command space data

Begin (b) Put in desirable database File number
Select (s) Locate/display records
Type (t) Followed by format/ 6 title only
5 full record/records to display
3 bibliographic display
Truncation *** Cuts down/typing synonyms Or -1 present
And – all
Not – eliminates
S s1 and s2 Selects sets 1 and 2

(n) non specific word order, requires proximity, include a number for number of intervening words

(w) specific word order between words, looks words up together in a phrase; truncation available

Stop words
Stop words aren’t indexed. They are replaced by proximity operators or enclosed in quotation marks.

Stop words are: of, and, an, by, for, from, the, to, with

An example using stop words would be:

slip? (2w) tongue which would locate “slip of the tongue” with ‘of the’ being the 2 intervening words between slip and tongue

Logical operators are and or not

Components of commands steps, files, set number

symbols = * + : /



everything else in additional indexes

Limit = limit specific

Sort = sort by title/author/journal


Additional indexes – company names, authors, explands

ST = state; CY = city; ZP = zipcode

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dialog Pocket Guide
Sections of interest:
• Basic search commands
• System features

Monday, April 28, 2014

History of electronic resources

What is online?
Online searching is a means by which electronic databases stored on a remote computer can be accessed and searched from a computer terminal.

History of electronic resources
The application of the term “online” has changed over the past few years (pre-2004) due to the development of new products and services. The term “online” can apply to:

  • Commercial, “traditional” search services such as those offered by Dialog
  • CD ROM database searching (1980s)
  • Consumer online services, e.g. American Online, MSN
  • The Internet (Many people think that that online is the Internet)

Finding information online
  • Bibliographic citations were found manually usually printed abstracts and indexes such as Engineering Index (1884), Index Medicus, and Chemical Abstracts
  • Manual production of abstracting and indexing services was labour intensive and the delays long. It could take up to two years between the publication of an article in a journal and its listing in an abstracting and indexing journal.
The convergence of data processing, information science, the growth in public data networks and the computerisation of print publications brought the online industry into being
  • 1950s: computers developed, batch processing, number crunching, first text-based search
  • 1960s: batch searching (non-interactive) in readable form, some services developed, printed indexes produced by computers, 
  • 1969 ARPANet developed. Beginning of Internet ; American military decentralized information elsewhere
  • 1970s: commercial databases launched (Dialog, considered first, had 6 bibliographic databases in 1972); expensive, difficult to use, mainly searched by specialists. 
  • 1980s: OPACs became common in libraries, an increasing number of diverse databases and commercial services were available, business information provision grew with more full-text systems based around menu interfaces were being offered to end-users, CD ROMs were adopted towards the end of the decade
  • 1990s: propriety Windows interfaces were developed, then as the Web became popular access to commercial services over the Web became a priority for suppliers; end-user searching was now a reality and services were marketed directly to the actual consumers of the information, rather than professional intermediaries.
“In large part, the history of electronic resources for reference began with the development of computer-assisted typesetting and printing.”
Kathleen M. Kluegel, 2001. Electronic resources for reference. In Reference and information services: an introduction 3rd ed., general eds. Richard E. Bopp, Linda C. Smith

Batch processing
  • Advances in computer and telecommunication technology
    • Modem
      • A contraction of modulator-demodulator, an electronic coupler used to connect a computer terminal to a telephone communication system. A modem translates electronic signals of the computer into sounds that can be transferred over the telephone line.
  • Much faster disks stacks replaced magnetic tapes
  • Development of microcomputers, search software and telecommunications networks
  • Searcher and system communicate interactively

A computer interface designed to respond to input from a human being, usually in the form of commands and/or data. A back-and-forth dialogue between a computer program and its human user is an interactive session.
ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science

History of electronic resources
  • 1972 Dialog 1st commercial online service
    • Developed by Roger Summit (father of online systems) for Lockhead Missile and Space Company
  • others follow, e.g. ORBIT (SDC), CAN/OLE (Canadian Online Enquiry Service, 1972), BRS (1977)
  • Number and availability of databases available through search services increase
  • Market expands to most academic and special libraries
  • Early 1980s full text databases become available on commercial search services
  • Mediated searching era
    • Mid 1980s meditated searching peaked than began a sharp decline

Meditated search
A systematic search in which a trained intermediary, such as an online services librarian or information broker, assists the end-user in locating desired information, by helping to formulate and execute appropriate strategies for searching online catalogs and databases, and by using more traditional bibliographic finding tools.

History of electronic resources
  • 1st online databases developed for use by end-users, but most end-users unwilling to take time to learn search language required
  • Most searching done by trained searchers/librarians on behalf of others
  • Charged on a per search basis typically based on time spent online + additional charges for displaying/printing the records
  • 1982 Knowledge Index (Dialog), After Dark (BRS) introduced
    • Menu rather than command driven
    • Marketed to end-users
    • Fewer databases and features but lower pricing
  • 1980s introduction of CD-ROM databases in libraries
  • use of CD-ROM searching skyrocketed, dial-up information services steadily declined
  • 1990s development and expansion of World Wide Web
It should be noted Dialog is generally not used in libraries, whereas databases are. Dialog can be found in special libraries, where they are quick and specific, and the service keeps reinventing itself.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


From: Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross Disciplinary Guide to Selected Sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 2002. pp. 395-96.
Joanne M. Perry
Based upon an essay by Karl Proehl

Although the common perception of geography is that it is merely a collection of place names and lists of products or recounting of explorers’ adventures, it is important to understand what geography is all about. Geography is the study of the Earth and all that is upon it, but it focuses on the significance of location, distribution, and subsequent patterns of identifiable phenomena. The research compares and contrasts differences from place to place and associates patterns of one particular phenomenon to other patterns within the area. The essence of geography, then, lies in the importance of places and regions, and the interconnections among places and regions. 1
Gilbert Grosvenor, chairman of the board and former president of the National Geographic Society, wrote: 
Geography deals with the physical and cultural realities of the world. It helps us to understand the varied and complex environments of the Earth. It gives meaning to location and establishes a context for understanding the connections of places. 2
Grosvenor added that an understanding of the significance of location and place is important; otherwise the consequences of human activities within the physical environment is lessened. Geography provides a frame of reference. It explores, describes, analyzes, and interprets the imprint and the processes of human activities on the land. 
Novelist and former social studies teacher, the late James Michener, noted:
The more I work in the social studies field the more convinced I become that geography is the foundation of all … When I begin work on a new area … I invariably start with the best geography I can find. This takes precedence over everything else, even history, because I need to ground myself in the fundamentals which have governed and in a sense limited human development … The virtue of the geographical approach is that it forces the reader to relate to man to his environment … It gives a solid footing to speculation and it remind the reader that he is dealing with real human beings who are just as circumscribed as he. 3 
Geography, as an interdisciplinary field of study has an interest in both the physical and cultural worlds. Although geography’s physical side is not specifically covered in this chapter, most of the items cited will cover the entire discipline, not just the study of human activity of Earth […] is the focus of geography as a social science. 
During the twentieth century a number of fundamental themes evolved within geography. A traditional definition of the discipline is given in the essay “Geography” by Norton Ginsburg found in A Reader’s Guide to the Social Sciences (A-1). In the new two-volume edition, published in December 2000, the geography chapter has been radically rewritten with essays that focus on feminist geography, geographical information systems, residential segregation and urban social geography and human geography. Geographers also point to a presentation by William Pattinson entitled “The Four Traditions of Geography” as a help in defining the discipline. 4 It is also traditional for the current president of the Association of American Geographers to present a presidential address that defends the nature and state of the discipline, which is then published in the Annals of the AAG. 
Regional and systematic geography
Within the social sciences the study of geography is divided into regional geography and systematic geography. The regional approach has traditionally formed the core of geography and reform its essential character.
5 The main purpose of regional studies is to concentrate on the geography character of areas and to focus on critical distinctive features. Regional studies usually include a number of topics: location, natural environment, population, political status, type of economy, internal arrangement and organization, external connections and relationships, characteristic landscapes and their origin, world importance, potentialities, and problems. 6
Alternatively, systematic geography is focused on the phenomenon and how it is spatially distributed. Systematic geography experienced significant growth during the twentieth century, research interests splitting off from each other as geographers became increasingly specialized. For instance, the main subfield, human geography, was subdivided into cultural, economic, historical, political, population, and urban geography.

Monday, April 14, 2014


“Without geography, you’re nowhere.”

Jimmy Buffett
“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”
Robert Byrne (U.S. writer and billiards champion player)

“The science concerned with the description of the earth’s surface; its form and physical features, its natural and political subdivisions, and its climate, products, and population.”

Gates, Jean Key. Guide to the Use of Libraries and Information Sources. 7th ed.
  • Systematic: concerned with individual physical and cultural elements of the earth
    • Physical geography includes geomorphology, climatology, biogeography, soils geography, hydrography, oceanography, cartography
    • Cultural/human geography includes economic geography, political geography, military geography, ethnography, historical geography, urban geography, demography, linguistic geography
  • Regional: concerns the differences and similarities among the various regions of the earth; seeks explanations for the variety among places by studying the special combination of features that distinguish these places
    • The objective of the regional geography is to account for the physical and cultural landscape of certain unified areas, e.g. Manitoba’s Physical and Human Environments, Canada’s Physical and Human Environments, Regional Geography of Africa: Study of physical and future of the nations in Africa
  • General reference
    • usually a small scale map covering a large area
  • Topographic
    • portrays shape and elevation of terrain
  • Thematic (subject), e.g.,
    • aeronautical charts, census tract maps, historical maps, land-use maps, population maps, soil maps, weather maps, etc.
  • Photoimage
    • aerial photograph/satellite image with map symbols added
Online sites
Library and Archives Canada: Maps, Charts and Architectural Plans

Monday, April 7, 2014


FROM: Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross disciplinary guide to selected sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries unlimited, 2002. pp. 173-75.
Daniel Mack

History has always been difficult both to define and to classify. In general, history can be said to be the study of humanity’s past. This definition is broad and unfocused, and for those very reasons is perhaps the best possible definition, as it reflects the range and scope of history as a discipline. This goes hand in hand with the difficulty in classifying history as a discipline. In this book we are classifying history as one of the social sciences, along with business, economics, and psychology. Such classification is valid but is not universal. Many texts, institutions, and scholars consider history to be one of the humanities. This viewpoint approaches history as being methodologically similar to the study of literature or philosophy. Both points of view have merit, and the researcher should keep both in mind when researching historical topics.

As an academic discipline, history is rapidly changing, for a number of reasons. Advances in technology have greatly increased both the discovery and the transmission of historical sources, while methodological paradigms continue to challenge the various interpretations of those sources. At the heart of these changes stand the very meaning of “history” as a field of inquiry. Now more than ever, librarians who deal with history need a firm understanding not only of the sources available to the historian but also of the practice of historical research and of the methodological processes by which historical materials are examined.

Historiography, or “the history of history,” deals with the way in which history has been treated as a field of inquiry in the past. Since there exist a number of good, general introductions to the development of history, we trace only some general, overall patterns in the progress of historical thought from antiquity to the present. For a more comprehensive discussion of the development of historical thought, an excellent introduction to the topic can be found in Alun Munslow’s The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies (Routledge, 2000).

History as it is generally understood in contemporary Western society is a relatively recent discipline. Most ancient civilizations did not write what we would define as history. The Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, and other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East kept such records as king lists and temple records. These documents, however, did not include the analysis that distinguishes modern historical practice. The Greeks were the first to write history as we know it. In the fifth century b.c.e., Herodotous and Thucydides wrote histories that are still read and studied today. Other Greek and Roman authors wrote historical texts as well, including such figures as Julius Caesar, Livy, and Tacitus.

For the Greek and Latin historians, history was a form of literature rather than a discipline in its own right. The tone of these authors is usually didactic; they tell a story to prove a point or to teach a lesson. The purpose might be political, as it was for Caesar; or moral, as it was for Livy. The purpose of writing history, therefore, was similar to that of writing drama, poetry, or philosophy: to use past events to learn about the human condition.

Medieval historians continued the work of their predecessors. The Catholic Church often became the guardian of historical records throughout the Western world, and members of its clergy, such as Bede and Einhard, were some of the major historians of the Middle Ages. The ancient practice of keeping annals, or yearly lists of important events, sometimes expanded to the writing of true historical chronicles, in which events were not merely listed but were examined within the context of the writer’s social and cultural order. In the Renaissance, the recovery of Greek and Latin texts, both historical and otherwise, influenced historians such as Guiccardini and Machiavelli. Renewed interest in classical antiquity also influenced the development of the auxiliary sciences of history, such as archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics. Scholars such as Biondo and Francini recorded the material culture of the past as it was brought to light.

It was during the Enlightment and the nineteenth century that history, as we generally use the term today, developed as an academic pursuit in its own right. The humanism of the Renaissance collided with the rising nationalism of Western Europe and the naturalism of the newly developing physical sciences. Historians sought to duplicate within their discipline the sense of causality found in physics, chemistry, and other new fields of inquiry. Besides writing narrative history, scholars began to publish works analyzing specific problems in historical research. Along with this came increasing specialization, as historians focused on the history of specific peoples, geographic areas, disciplines, and groups. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially, individual schools of historical research came into prominence. For example, the annals historians of early- and mid-twentieth century France were heavily influenced by the dialectical materialism of Marx, focusing on the economic and social aspects of history. In the later twentieth century, feminist and gender studies had a great impact on historical research.

The most recent phenomenon to have an impact on historical research is postmodernism. Appearing initially in studies of art and architecture, during the second half of the twentieth century, postmodernism invaded literary theory, the humanities, and the social sciences, and can now be found in nearly every area of academic inquiry. Definitions of the term and its scope differ, and there exist many forms of postmodern thought. In general, however, the postmodern view can be characterized by several traits: a rejection of objectivity, the denial of the existence of eternal truth, and the refutation of a reality external to the individual. For some historians, such as Keith Windschuttle, postmodern theory is completely destroying history as an academic discipline. 1 For other scholars, including Alun Munslow, postmodern theory is a valid methodological tool, and a natural progression from the schools of thought of the past. 2

For students, librarians, and historians in the twenty-first century, a number of developments are important when practicing historical research. First, one must be aware of the ever-increasing interdisciplinary trend that is occurring in all of the social sciences, and the humanities as well. Second, specialization in historical research continues to evolve. Whether by time period; geographical area; ethnic, racial, or social group; or some other focus, historical writing continues its trend toward specialization. Along with this goes the history of various identity groups, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. Third, recent developments in theory and method require the researcher to have a basic understanding of these new trends. Postmodernism, feminist theory, and other intellectual trends will continue to have an enormous impact on historical research and writing. Finally, and perhaps most important of all in the long run, are the new technologies available to the historian. Computers and the Internet provide both basic research tools and venues for the dissemination of research. The World Wide Web makes available huge collections of primary sources that were once accessible only to those who could afford to spend the time and money required to travel to the location of such sources. E-mail and discussion groups allow rapid scholarly communication. Emerging trends in digital publication offer exciting new avenues of multimedia publication that can reach worldwide audiences.

Monday, March 31, 2014

History resources

See History Databases

America: History and Life
Covers material about Canada and the United States only.

Historical Abstracts
Historical coverage of the world from 1450 to the present (excluding the United States and Canada).

Online Guides/Pathfinders

History – General on the Web
Additional guides for Canada, Europe, US and World.

BUBL Link: 900 Geography and History
Internet resources selected by UK librarians.

Canada’s SchoolNet Learning Resources: Social Studies

History Resources
This resource, from Louisiana State University, contains pointers to bibliographies, catalogs, electronic images, electronic texts, electronic journals, electronic discussion groups, and indexes.

The Internet Public Library: History

Internet Subject Guides: History. Mount Royal College, Calgary

Kwantlen University College Library Internet Subject Guides: History

WWW-VL The World Wide Virtual Library History: Central Catalogue

Canada Online: Canadian History
From “”. Links to general Canadian history resources and Canadian history maps.

Canadian History on the Web
Links compiled by Oxford University Press Canada.

Canadiana: The Canadian Resources Page
An extensive gateway to Internet sites on a wide range of subjects relating to Canada. There are subject headings for history and politics, science and education, news and information, facts and figures and much more. Last updated 2000.

H-Canada: Canadian History and Studies
A discussion group for scholars including publication reviews, calls for papers and resource links.

Library and Archives Canada
Provides access to the full list of selected topics available for browsing on the Library and Archives Canada Website.

Genealogy Links


Our roots/Nos Racines
Canada’s local histories online.

Family Search
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) website. Links to 1881 Canadian and British census and 1880 U.S. Census.

1901 Census for England and Wales

Census of Canada, 1901

Encarta Encyclopedia. “Geography”.

Geography on the Web

Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection
Collection of current and historical maps provided by the University of Texas at Austin.

Monday, March 24, 2014


History quotes
“History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.”

-Max Beerbohm
“God alone knows the future, but only an historian can alter the past.”

-Ambrose Bierce
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

“All that has been felt, thought, imagined, said, and done by human beings as such and in relation to one another and to their environment since the beginning of mankind’s operations on this planet.”

-Social Science Research Council

Many consider “history” to be one of the humanities

Developments to note
  • Increasing interdisciplinary trend
  • Increasing number of specialized areas, e.g. by: time period; geographic area; ethnic, racial, or social group
  • Developments in theory and method, e.g. postmodernism; feminist theory
  • New technologies, e.g. digitalization and availability of primary sources over the Web, e.g. U of M Archives & Special Collections. The Canadian Wartime Experience
  • see Using Primary Sources on the Web
  •  Primary sources: records made at the time of an event (or somewhat later) by the participants or firsthand observers, e.g.
    • letters
    • diaries
    • court records
    • wills
    • newspaper accounts of those on the scene
      • viewpoints may not be accurate
    • oral histories and interviews
    • data files, e.g. census records
    • ephemeral materials important for social/cultural history, e.g. menus, catalogues, playbills, comic books, etc.
  • Secondary sources: materials by individuals other than event participants or eyewitnesses which analyze or report on historical subjects 
    • Monograph dominates but serial literature growing
  • Tertiary sources: information gained “third hand”, or a summary of a summary. Information found from encyclopaedias
  • Historians tend to refer to older materials more than scholars in most other disciplines (preservation problems with acidic materials)
  • New methodologies esp. use of quantitative sources, e.g. census, tax info
  • Social history (Annales School originating in France, 1929)
    • study of groups such as women, children, minorities, the poor
    • Statistical data used where ever possible, e.g. the Doomsday book
    • If those studied were not considered everyday people or the elite, there was likely little to no paper trails
  • Historians usually regular library users
    • heavy users of ILL
    • microform sets of source material important
    • Web resources beginning to appear
  • Biographies most popular historical genre with general readers
  • Local histories: authors often amateur historians, information may overlap with genealogy
  • Oral history may fill gap as fewer and fewer record experiences in written diaries and letters
  • Historical revision: process of reinterpreting the past, should be based on new evidence or new interpretations of existing evidence not deliberate fabrications of the historical record
    • E.g. The Red River Rebellion is now referred to as the Red River Resistance. Louis Riel is now portrayed as a good man, rather than the traitor he was illustrated as.
  • Poor teaching of history in K-12, especially when focused on names and dates, has caused many to believe history is boring and irrelevant yet:
    • Family history/genealogy extremely popular
    • Historical re-enactments popular
    • History TV channel
    • Numerous popular museums

Monday, March 17, 2014

Political science

From: Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross Disciplinary Guide to Selected Sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 2002. pp. 47-50.

Political science
Debra Cheney

Every day, newspapers, magazines, television, and radio bombard us with information dealing with political situations and developments. However, few of us think of this information as falling within the discipline of political science. Similarly, political science questions posed at library reference desks will frequently deal with current events and society, rather than with an analysis of a political theory or ideology. Yet all these questions fall into the arena of political science reference work. 
One difficult aspect of categorizing political science questions is that they are dependent on both the type of the library and the needs of patrons using that library. Each reference question can require different resources and different reference processes. In an academic setting, questions about the availability of foreign newspaper translations, articles about the impact of congressional redistricting on voter registration, and statements and voting records on a wide range of topics are likely to be posed. In addition, questions about political situations in other countries and the activities and publications of international and intergovernmental organizations are increasingly common. With the growing awareness of world events and the greater availability of information about these events, researchers are increasingly expanding their research to include non-U.S. sources. The breadth and complexity of many political science questions illustrate two facts about the discipline of political science: It lacks a clear definition and delineation of the subject from other social sciences, and the range of material covered in the field is very large. 
Einstein once observed that politics was more difficult to understand than physics because of the number of relationships and factors involved. 1 This can be said also about the study of political science. Politics and the governance of human beings have, of course, been in existence since we first organized into societal groups. Yet the study of political science is a relatively new social science, born from the disciplines of history, economics, and government and nurtured by the fields of sociology, psychology, geography, and philosophy. Because of the field’s interdisciplinary nature, political science reference questions often require sources and knowledge beyond those traditionally categorized as purely political science sources. 
Evolution of political science
The birth of this new social science is usually placed at the turn of the twentieth century with the establishment of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 1903. Before that time, most studies of politics took place within departments of history and economics. However, with the founding of the ASPA, political science departments soon developed in colleges and universities across the country. The founding was also significant to the discipline, because it was a U.S. association and the discipline itself is a uniquely U.S. social science, with more than three-quarters of political scientists being American. 2 The predominance of Americans in the field focused most research in the area of the U.S. politics, a bias that still exists today. However, this is changing not only because the end of the Cold War has placed the superpowers in a relationship of cooperation rather than competition, but also because information about other countries has become more available. 
As the discipline developed, its lack of scientific principles was viewed by all as a primary deterrent in a field claiming the word science. Political scientists consciously tried to develop the principles and theories necessary for a scientific framework for this new field. However, the discipline continues to struggle with the need to define itself and its role. 3 The 1982 International Handbook of Political Science, edited by William G. Andrews (Greenwood Press, 1982), opens with the same sentence that the first article in the first issue of Political Science Quarterly (the first professional journal in the field) did in 1886: “The term political science is greatly in need of definition.” 4 On the surface it would appear that U.S. efforts during the past century have done little to define the discipline of political science. Yet the profession has made a good deal of progress; it has produced a body of classic works, fostered specialization, developed a systematic theoretical structure, and developed models for analysis. 
The discipline has passed through five developmental stages in the past 100 years. The first stage, the study of government, was an outgrowth of the marriage of history and economics. This period produced the great classics in political science, many of which stand up well even by today’s standards of science 5 and were the basis for political organizational theory. However, the search for scientific rules for the discipline continued until after World War II, when the second stage, behaviorism, emerged. Behaviourists sought to scientifically learn why and how people react in political situations, and tried to predict occurrences and political actions. A third stage, the study of comparative politics, began to move political science out of its largely U.S. focus and to compare how nations and states operate. The fourth stage, the study of public administration, dealt with how governments and organizations (e.g., Congress, government agencies, political parties) operate. The final stage, the now-burgeoning field of public policy analysis, seeks ways to quantify and evaluate political decisions to maximize benefits for the public good. Each of these stages reflected the interest and themes of the historical periods in which it was born and effectively added new fields of specialization within the study of political science. 
Fields of specialization
Within political science there are many fields of research, each slightly different from the others and each borrowing from and overlapping to certain degrees with other social sciences. These fields can be grouped into seven broad areas: national governments, comparative politics, international politics, political theory, public law, public administration, and public policy analysis. 
National governments
The study of national governments is the oldest branch of political science, covering many topics and evolving out of the works of Plato and Aristotle. Originally this field dealt with the subjects of power, the state, and political institutions. Due to the U.S. dominance in political science, the field soon grew into the study of the powers and interactions of the legislative, executive, and judicial bodies at the national, state, and local levels. The study of the national governments branched out in the early twentieth century to include the study of voting and electoral patterns and the power of political parties within the U.S. political scene. Today, because of behaviorism and frequent forays into sociology and psychology, the key fields of study are the behavior and motivation of voters and the power of the media in the political process. 
Comparative politics
The study of comparative politics became an area of serious research after World War II with the emergence of behaviorism. Comparative politics research attempts to develop methodologies by which institutions and governments can be compared scientifically. Unfortunately, there has rarely been agreement on consistent methodologies, and, consequently, scientific cross-national comparisons rarely occur. Study in this branch of political science and the resulting literature tend to be primarily descriptive, occasionally crossing into the field of history, areas studies, and economics. 
International politics
The study of international politics examines the interactions of independent political entities within an international sphere. These entities can be either separate nations or intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as the United Nations or the Organizations of American States. Frequent topics of interest in this field are the foreign policies of countries or organizations, national defense policies, peace and military research, and diplomatic affairs. The literature of this field of study depends heavily on official government, organization, or intergovernmental documents, including proclamations, resolutions, reports, and policy statements. 
Political theory
The study of political theory seeks ways to explain and predict political phenomena through the philosophical and moral aspects of political ideologies. The field is divided into two major areas of study: normative and empirical. Normative theory concerns itself with analytical, moral, and philosophical issues. Empirical theory tries to predict behaviour through established models and hypotheses. 
Public law
The study of public law is the counterpart to the legal profession. Whereas the attorney researches issues to know how best to represent a client in a court of law, a scholar studies the same material looking for patterns to describe how society places controls on the individual. Research, dominated by U.S. scholars, has focused primarily on the separation of powers, presidential power, and the powers of the courts. However, there is also extensive study of international law, covering the issues of accepted international legal behaviour, both by individuals and nations. This field depends heavily on court decisions (including administrative and appellate courts) and on international agreements and treaties. 
Public administration
The study of public administration grew out of research since the 1880s on the daily operation of governments and bureaucracies and has developed a substantial body of classic literature to serve as a foundation. 6 The primary focus of public administrations research is on governmental operations and the managerial processes associated with the successful operation of any organization, including budgeting, staffing, management, directing, analysis, and evaluation. Governments at all levels--national, state, and local—are studied. The field frequently approaches issues from a comparative politics standpoint, and an important area of recent study involves research on the governments of developing countries. 
Public policy analysis
Public policy analysis, the newest field of study, combines economics, public administration, and national government as it delves into the decisions and actions of governments operating with limited resources. The field attempts to develop methodologies and models through with public policy decisions can be made. Despite its newness, the field has grown rapidly and is now considered a mature field of study. 
Structure of the literature
Information sources for political science fall into two categories: primary sources in either paper or machine-readable format from research or governmental bodies and secondary sources (e.g., accounts from monographs or serials). Each field within political science depends on these two information categories to differing degrees. For example, a study of legislative intent would require the publications of official bodies, such as the Congress or the United Nations General Assembly, to interpret legislative intent; a voting analysis study would require raw data of electoral results to develop a hypothesis concerning voting behaviour; and a study of Chinese national economic policies would require government publications and monographic, serial, and newspaper accounts. 
Reference services in political science is highly dependent on the nature of the question and the type of patron. It should be obvious that a firm grasp of other social science reference sources is requisite. A basic knowledge of current events and American history is also essential in conducting the reference interview. Familiarity with the structure of the United States and key intergovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations, is also essential. Finally, a working knowledge of the organization of government document collections and the characteristics of specific types of government publications, particularly congressional and judicial documents, is helpful. In short, to provide reference service to the field of political science one must be comfortable with the social sciences in general and with collections containing primary source materials. 
The titles discussed in the remainder of the chapter represent the variety of political science reference resources available. The sources are arranged based on the subject and type of question that they could help to answer, in the following categories:
General Information 
Public Administration and Public Policy—General Sources 
U.S. Government—Executive Branch
U.S. Government—Congress
U.S. Government—The Presidency 
U.S. Government—State and Local 
National Governments—Worldwide 
U.S. Politics—General 
Elections and Political Parties—United States 
Elections and Political Parties—The States 
Elections and Political Parties—Worldwide 
International Relations and Organizations 
War and Peace; Terrorism 
Human Rights

Monday, March 10, 2014

Political science resources

Canadian Political Science Association

American Political Science Association

Online Guides/Pathfinders, etc.
Politics Subject Guides

Internet Subject Guides: Political Science. Mount Royal College, Calgary.

Canadian Information By Subject: 32 Political Science. National Library of Canada

Country Studies
How to find information about countries. Links compiled by University of Winnipeg Library.

Government & Legal Links
Organized by City Government, Manitoba Government, Canadian Government, and Statues & Legal Links, and International Government Resources.

Canadian Governments
Comprehensive list of links compiled by UBC Library.

Guide to Information Sources on Political Science. University of New Brunswick.
Recommends print and electronic sources available through UNB Libraries.

Politics & Government Campus Guides, York University Libraries.
Recommends print and electronic sources available through York University Libraries.

Political Science Resources Reference Tools
By the University of Michigan Document Center. The site offers a collection of databases and links.

From: OCLC
PAIS International
Provides selective subjects and bibliographic access to periodicals, books, hearings, reports, gray literature, government publications, Internet resources, and other publications from 120 countries. The database covers the public and social policy literature of business, economics, finance, law, international relations, public administration, government, political science, and other social sciences – with emphasis on issues that are or might become the subjects of legislation. Includes materials in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish with English language abstracts and subject headings.

PAIS Archive
Contains more than 700,000 records, originally published in the PAIS Bulletin, 1915-1976. Complements the contemporary coverage of the PAIS International database, also available on FirstSearch.

Women in Politics Bibliographic Database
A searchable bibliographic database of 650 titles, including books, articles, and other governmental publications dealing with women in politics.

Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries
The Canadian Encyclopedia

Glossary of Political Economy Terms. Compiled by Paul M. Johnson, Auburn University.

iAmericanSpirit Political Dictionary
The purpose of a political dictionary is to acquaint the reader with the terms used by policymakers, journalists, commentators, and analysts, in discussing national and international politics.

Glossary of [Canadian Political] Terms
Glossary provided by: Mark O. Dickerson & Tom Flanagan, authors of An Introduction to Government and Politics, 5th ed.

Almanacs, handbooks, etc.
The World Factbook
From CIA.

Statistics Sources
Statistics and Indicators. University of British Columbia Library.
Lists print handbooks, yearbooks, statistical compilations on CD-ROM, online or on the world wide web, that might be helpful for political science researchers including:

Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Trade Negotiations and Agreements: Tools and Statistics
Includes links to trade data, a “Glossary of Terms” and list of acronyms.

Transparency International
A bibliography which provides a fully searchable database of documents and publications, on corruption and related issues. It has a special focus on gray literature.

Corruption Perceptions Index
A comparative assessment of country’s integrity performance.

Canadian Government Budgets
Includes links to federal and provincial budgets between 1995 and 2004.

Country Indicators for Foreign Policy
CIFP is a geopolitical database developed originally by the Canadian Department of National Defense in 1991. In 1997 the project became known as CIFP (Country Indicators for Foreign Policy). The project represents an on-going effort to identify and assemble statistical information conveying the key features of the political, economic, social and cultural environments of countries around the world. Currently, the data set includes measurements of domestic armed conflict, governance and political instability, militarization, religious and ethnic diversity, demographic stress, economic performance, human development, environmental stress, and international linkages.

Provides links and information about the major statistical material available on the web for politics.

Historical Statistics of Canada
An electronic version of the compendium Historical Statistics of Canada - second edition, originally published in 1983 as a paper publication. It depicts the growth and development of Canada from Confederation in 1867 to the modern era in short texts and extensive statistical tables. In addition to time series on employment, housing, health care, education and the national accounts, it includes descriptions designed to aid interpretation and use of the data and draws together references to the many original sources.

International Relations and Security Network
The ISN is a free public service that provides a wide range of high-quality and comprehensive products and resources to encourage the exchange of information among international relations and security professionals worldwide. The ISN works to promote a better understanding of the strategic challenges we face in today’s changed security environment.

The Progress of Nations
Provides a descriptive and statistical national comparison for social, economic data. Looks at such factors as water and sanitation, nutrition, health, education, treatment of women, etc. Published by UNICEF. Reports from 1995-1999 also online.

Population Reference Bureau
Provides timely and objective information on U.S. and international population trends and their implications.

Profiles nation-states and provinces of the world. You can look at maps and flags or listen to national anthems.

Access to Justice Network
Canadian law and justice resource materials.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Political science

“Man is by nature a political animal.”


“Political is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Political science deals with the nature, the accumulation, the distribution, 
the exercise, and the control of power on all levels of social interaction, 
with special emphasis upon the power of the state.”

Hans J. Morgenthau (1904-1979), American political scientist

Political science is:
“The study of “who gets what, when, and how”.”

H. D. Laswell

“The study of the processes, principles, and structure
of government and of political institutions; politics.”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, © 2000.

“the study of conflict and cooperation within societies. At its most basic level, 
this entails asking how and why life and property should be protected and how 
cultural and economic aspirations are expressed and accommodated. The study of 
national and international political systems involve investigation of how individuals, 
social movements, groups and parties relate to each other and to government; 
how governmental systems operate; and how and why certain policies work.”

University of Calgary. Faculty of Arts. Department of Political Science.

“Political scientists analyse the causes and consequences of war, disputes over territory 
and resources, problems of environmental degradation, problems of sexual and 
racial inequality, poverty, terrorism and refugees, and the nature and 
consequences of globalization. More generally, political science researchers 
investigate such concepts as justice, liberty, representation and democracy, and 
explore ideologies that try to make sense of the political world, such as conservatism, liberalism, socialism, fascism, feminism, and environmentalism.”

University of Calgary. Faculty of Arts. Department of Political Science.

“The study of relationships between citizens and governments (as well as 
relationships between governments) and the impact of issues such as 
race, gender, nationalism, and capital on those relationships.”
Political science
  • The past affects the future
  • To understand our current government, we must look at the past
  • Political writings build on each other, proving or disproving hypotheses and theories
  • study of national governments (oldest)
  • comparative politics
  • international politics
  • political theory
    • normative (what should be, theoretical)
    • empirical (what is, practical)
  • public law
  • public administration
  • public policy analysis
    • analyse what the government is doing
Major topics
  • The origin, nature, and purpose of the State (political theory)
  • Various forms of government (e.g., presidential and parliamentary systems)
  • The concentration or dispersal of powers found in governments (checks and balances)
  • Relationships between the individual and the State (rights and liberties)
  • Elections
  • Political parties and interest groups
  • Ideologies that affect governmental policy (democracy, socialism, communism and fascism)
  • Public policy
  • International relations
Political science in Canada
  • As an academic discipline, dates back to late 19th century
    • As do most disciplines
  • Strongly connected to constitutional law and economics
  • Canadian Political Science Association founded in 1913
  • Strong American influence in English Canadian universities in 1960s
    • Vietnam War occurred, universities established, professors trained or came from America
  • Growth in Quebec coincided with the Quiet Revolution
    • Language laws, church
Reference requires
  • Basic knowledge of current events and Canadian history
    • affects everyday life
  • Familiarity with structure of Canadian government at all levels (federal, provincial, municipal) and key international organizations, e.g. U.N.
  • Familiarity with types and organizations of government publications
Literature needs
  • Data files are much in demand, especially those with detailed election information, but also those that capture government activity
  • Political and issue advocacy organizations produce a considerable variety of publications in print and now in digital form on the web
  • Detailed information about the political process (who did what when), especially in the legislative and executive branches (and the judicial branch for those in constitutional law) remains popular
  • Substantial use of public opinion data (polling)
Teachers and students
  • Popular syntheses
  • “Who did what when and why” factbooks (help with classroom assignments)
  • Current awareness material to answer questions about current events
  • Popular, pro and con discussion of visible issues
    • Health care, daycare, same-sex marriage, environmental issues
    • No lack of material, problem is balance
  • Biographies of politicians, statesmen/women
  • Government addresses and services
  • a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.
Some see political science as citizen training or indoctrination. Political science then becomes civics which is designed to teach students to be good citizens and participate appropriately in the political process