Sources & Citations

Political science arguments are based on theoretical work. Then, testing these arguments requires empirical evidence—information gained through observation or experimentation. This means that building theories and testing them in political science necessitates drawing on scholarly sources. This brings up two issues: (1) in practical terms, following political science conventions for citing these sources; and (2) more generally, making the most of your sources and organizing this information for future use.


Immediate Citation Concerns

First, there is the very practical concern – you have a paper due at noon tomorrow and the bibliography isn’t going to organize itself. Meaning, there is first the immediate need for references to aid in proper political science citation.

OWL, the Purdue Online Writing Lab, is a typical first-stop to reference APA, MLA, and Chicago style citation and paper formatting. Different political science journals require different citations styles. Similarly, political science professors have different citation expectations—some prefer APA while others Chicago; some allow any style, as long as the paper implements one style consistently. Once you know your professor or graduate teaching assistant’s expectations, OWL is the resource for refreshing your knowledge of a particular citation style.

Google Scholar is a search engine aiming to pick on academic sources such as journal articles and books. It also proves a helpful citation resource. If we search “democratic peace,” the first result is Russett (1995) Grasping the democratic peace. Under the blurb about the source, we see a “Cite” option. Clicking this, we are provided with MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations for the resource. We are also given the option to export the citation to research source management programs. This is a great starting point for source citation, though one should check Google Scholar’s output to ensure it conforms to proper citation style.


Systematic research source management

Before research paper crunch time, you have the opportunity to think about citation and research source management more broadly. Organizing your sources and documenting how you use them (quotations, paraphrasing) is crucial to avoid academic plagiarism. In addition, thinking about source management at the start of your project can allow you to organize sources in such a way that the bibliography composes itself at the end, and you can have a record of your sources for future scholarly work.

So, if you are writing a longer research paper, consider investing some time in downloading, learning, and using a more systematic citation management program—especially for a project that might span semesters or carry into graduate work. A few examples include:

Ask a faculty member or graduate student for comments on each of these programs’ benefits and idiosyncrasies, their peculiarities.