Salisbury University Libraries


Holloway Hall

POSC110 Class Guide - Fall 2008

Jump To:

Getting Help     Finding Court Cases/Legislation     Definitions

Finding Secondary Sources    Find It Button     Evaluating Websites    

Citing Your Work

Getting help:

Hi, I'm Krista Knapp, your friendly reference/instructional librarian, and I'm here to help you!
You can email me at or Trust me, you WANT to be friends with a librarian.  Not only are we extraordinarily cool, but we're here to help you with your research, and we actually enjoy doing it, as sick and twisted as that sounds!  Visit my website for more information about me:

When I'm not teaching classes or rushing off to meetings, you can find me in my office in Blackwell Library 129 or at the research services desk.  My hours on the desk are Mondays 8am-12pm, Wednesdays 8am-10am, Thursdays 10am-12pm, and Fridays 8am-10am.  Stop by and say hi!  Now, I know my desk shifts are pretty early, so if those times are good for you, you can also drop me an email to set up an appointment with me.  We can meet in my office and go over your research.


I like to think of this assignment in terms of primary sources and secondary sources.  This is a good opportunity for me to use those terms because there is a good chance you will be asked to find primary sources at some point in time (we get those sorts of reference questions at the desk all the time.) 

Primary sources are documents that are "eyewitness" accounts of an event or time period and include things like letters, memoirs, original research data, newspapers published in that time period, and in the case of your assignment: the actual court documents or text of the legislation.

Secondary sources are documents that report on or analyze primary sources such as literary criticism, an article about events that happened in the past, textbooks, etc.  For your assignment, secondary sources will be books and articles that talk about the court decisions or legislation.

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about primary and secondary sources here!

Finding court cases and legislation:

There are a ton of resources for this, but here is what I recommend:  take a look at some of the famous cases/legislation on the following websites and choose a few that interest you:

For state cases/legislation, you can easily google "[state name] and historic legislation" or "[state name] and historic court cases."

THEN...if you need to see the full text of the case or legislation and it's not included in those websites, try the following:

Lexis-Nexis Academic - for State/Federal Court Cases, follow these steps:

  • At the top, where it says "General, News, Legal, Business, People," click Legal

  • From the left hand side, choose "Federal and State Cases"

  • Enter the plaintiff and defendant's names in the Case Name search box, or you can search by keyword, date, citation number, etc.

Use THOMAS to find full text of federal legislation back to 1973.  You can also search the
US Code.  If you need help finding what you need, let me know!

Finding Secondary Sources:

You can use these databases to find books and articles that were written about the court case or legislation you have chosen to write about.

To find books, use the library's online catalog.

When you look at articles, it may be helpful to think in terms of scholarly versus popular publications.  Check out this handy dandy chart from Duke Libraries for more information.  You will probably want a mix of scholarly and popular sources for your assignment.

To find articles, use one of these databases:

  • Academic Search Complete - a multidisciplinary database containing both scholarly and popular sources, many of which have full-text available.  ASP is a good place to start your research.  Use the FindIt button to locate articles that are not available full-text.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic - a great source for full-text world news and legal information.
  • National Newspapers - a source of U.S. news from major papers including The New York Times and The Washington Post
  • JSTOR Arts & Sciences - a huge, wonderful database of scholarly communication from a wide variety of disciplines, including Political Science.  All of these sources are full-text, but the newest documents are 3-5 years old.
  • CQ Weekly - Congressional Quarterly's magazine on government, commerce and politics.
  • America: History and Life  - U.S. and Canadian historical sources.  Use the FindIt button to locate articles that are not available full-text.
  • Social Sciences Abstracts - covers all the social sciences.  It's an EBSCO database, same as Academic Search Complete, so the interface will look familiar.  There are some full-text articles; for others, use the FindIt button.

And how about Polling Data?

Try these websites:

Or you can try Googling "poll data" AND [your topic].


It's a bit like magic, really.  The Find It button does three things:

  • Looks in all of our databases to see if the document you want is available full-text in another of our databases.  If so, it links you to it!

  • Links you to the library catalog when we have the item you want in print or microform.

  • Links you to ILLiad (interlibrary loan) so you can borrow the item from another library if we don't have access electronically or in print.

The Find It button is YOUR FRIEND!!!

Evaluating Websites:

Always make sure that internet resources are appropriate for your project.  If you have any doubts, check out the criteria listed on this website.

If the link above doesn't make things crystal clear, and you're still questioning the appropriateness of a website, please check with your professor or a librarian.

Citing your work:

Plagiarism is not cool.  Of course you want to make sure you give proper credit to any source that you use to write your papers, whether you directly quote or paraphrase.  This guide helps students understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it:

For citation help, check out the SU's Citation Style Guide.

Subject Guide Home | Library Home

The librarian liaison to Political Science is Gaylord Robb, | 410-677-0118