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Public Policy Guide: Start Your Research

This guide contains information resources for the Masters of Public Policy.

Start Your Research

Undertaking public policy research can be a complex process. To start researching invest time to in understanding the fundamentals about what you are going to write about. Start with a simple search and become familiar with the topic and current issues before moving on to more complex searches. As you research you will become familiar with the words and terms used to describe your topic

It is also important to critically evaluate resources before you use them in your assignment. Watch the videos to the right for an example of critical evaluation and some examples of searching for information online.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar Search

Search Strategies

There are many different search strategies to help you find information, see some examples below.


Start by identifying some keywords or main ideas for your essay topic. For example if you were conducting a search on the Global Financial Crisis you may start your words by selecting keywords such as “financial crisis”, “recession” “credit crunch”, “sub-prime crisis”, “housing bubble”, “rescue plan”, “stimulus package”.



You will find that some journals will use different words to describe the same concept. Try to find synonyms (words with the same meaning) to broaden your search term. You can use thesauri for synonyms, think of your own or see what terms journal articles are using. For example if you were searching for information on marketing I could also use the terms “buying”, “commerce”, “cost”, “publicity” or “selling”.


Connect Terms

You can improve your search by connecting your search terms together using Boolean Operators such as AND & OR.

AND- connects the keywords together, both terms will be searched for.

OR- connects the synonyms allowing the search to find material that contains any of the words

You can also group phrases together using "quotation marks" and group search terms together using (brackets).

An example of using Boolean Operators in a search would be: (economics OR finance) AND (farming OR agriculture) AND "Western Australia".

Show Me How

Choosing the best database for your search

Summon is a simple way to search for information resources, including journal articles. But sometimes you will need to use the additional, discipline-specific features provided by specialist databases to find the information that you need for your assignments.

  • Not all of the resources in specialist databases can be found using Summon.

Subject-specific databases are ideal for searching the journal literature because they are tailored to a particular discipline, and therefore provide the ability to narrow your search in ways that wouldn't be possible in a general database or search tool like Summon. They vary from each other on subject area, coverage, content types, geographical location, etc - so consider which database/s will be most likely to contain the kind of information you're looking for.

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