Research Workshop
for Econ 91C: Public Policy


1/31/19

Sarah Elichko / selichk1
Social Sciences & Data Librarian

Contents:

Research a policy topic

Finding research  (articles, books)

Finding data  (empirical evidence)

Reading, evaluating, writing

Potential pitfalls?

Focus on actively filtering, rather than passively searching

Organize your findings as you go

Cherry picking

Directionless Tab Overload

Focus on actively filtering, rather than passively searching

Choose search tools that offer you more control

Save time: look for downstream research

Learn how to search more clearly

Choose search tools that offer you more control

Google + Google Scholar --> wide net, but few filters

Tripod + EconLit --> easy to focus on scholarly research,
                                     filter + sort results by multiple criteria

Choose search tools that offer you more control

1. Go to Google Scholar and search for:  smoking bans

How many search results come up?
Which academic disciplines do you see represented?
What options do you have to narrow down your results?

How are your results sorted? (Can you change the order?)

2. Open a new tab. Go to EconLit and repeat the search.

(keep EconLit open)

Criteria you can use to filter results in EconLit

Geography:  Focus on research about a specific country

          Filter results            Subject > Select country name
          Advanced Search   Search country name in All Subjects

Publication Date

Publication Title  (the journal an article was published in)

>> Search EconLit for tobacco control
Filter by Subject: Select More, then find u.s. in the list.

Check box to Include, then click Apply.

>> Go to Advanced Search.

1st search box: enter a keyword for your policy issue
2nd search box: enter (u.s. OR china OR _____) 
Change drop-down menu to All Subjects (then search)

How do you do more complex searches?

Two approaches:
- Search for groups of synonyms  (expands results)

- Use abstract + subject searching (helps focus results)

("smoking bans" OR "smoke-free" OR "tobacco control")

(restaurants OR bars OR cafes OR dining)

AND

("smoking bans" OR "smoke-free" OR "tobacco control")

(restaurants OR bars OR cafes OR dining)

--> What this means: An article only needs to include 1 term from each group to appear in your
search results.

Search for Groups of Synonyms

Use Abstract + Subject Searching

Subject Searching:  Emphasize an aspect of your topic

Abstract Searching:  Increases relevance of your results by showing only articles where your terms are mentioned prominently: in the title, abstract, or description.

>> Do an Advanced Search in EconLit:
1st box:   smoke-free
2nd box:  L*   (change drop-down to All Subjects & Indexing)

     This finds articles mentioning "smoke-free" that

     are tagged with Industrial Organization

>> Search keyword in Anywhere Except Full Text

How JEL codes identify specific topics

For example, compare 2 articles about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Each article emphasizes a different impact (household finances, health). See how these articles are tagged with different JEL Codes:

“The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Household Finances “The Earned Income Tax Credit, Mental Health, and Happiness
Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies, includes inheritance and gift taxes (H24) Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies, includes inheritance and gift taxes (H24)
Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions (D31) Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions (D31)
Economics of Gender, Non-labor Discrimination (J16) Economics of Gender, Non-labor Discrimination (J16)
Household Saving, Personal Finance (D14)
Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages (G21)
Health Behavior (I12)
General Welfare, Well-Being (I31)
Marriage, Marital Dissolution, Family Structure, Domestic Abuse (J12)

How to search EconLit using JEL codes

“The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Household Finances
Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies, includes inheritance and gift taxes (H24)
Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions (D31)
Economics of Gender, Non-labor Discrimination (J16)
Household Saving, Personal Finance (D14)
Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages (G21)

How could you find more articles about the EITC impact on savings?

 

You could start with a narrow search:

    "earned income tax credit"
    AND su(d14)
         = 15 results

 


But this might be so narrow as to exclude some relevant research. How to expand?

All JEL codes starting with D are within the category Microeconomics.
 

G --> Financial Economics (e.g. G21)

H --> Public Economics (e.g. H24)

J  -->  Labor & Demographic Econ.

--> Will include only articles tagged "Household Saving, Personal Finance (D14)"

Search the entire JEL subcategory:

 "earned income tax credit" AND su(d1*) = 27

 

Expand, but stay relatively focused - Try multiple JEL codes and adding a keyword:

    "earned income tax credit" AND savings
    AND su(d1* OR d3* OR h23 OR h24)
= 38

Expand your search to include more policy journals

Starting in EconLit, select Change Databases.
Scroll down to Social Sciences, select box for Politics, click Apply.

Look for downstream research

Article 1 (2012)

influences

Article 2  (2017)

Article 1 (2012) is cited by Article 2 (2017).

Use Google Scholar's "cited by" search to find research that cites a specific article/book:

1. Look up a specific      

   article or book on

   your topic (example).

2. Click "Cited by" link


You'll see research that has cited the article/book.

Organize your findings as you go

Annotate while saving sources (identify themes)

Be consistent: save everything the same way

Describe your policy issue in no more than 5 words

List some other words that you would expect to come up in discussions about your topic. (Imagine explaining your interest in this topic to your professor - what words would you use?)

Geographic keywords can help focus your results - try regions and countries, but also states, provinces, cities.

How to Choose Keywords / Search Terms

Remove conjunctions, articles and prepositions

Then, search Google Scholar, EconLit, or Tripod.

Browse the search results for terminology (synonyms, other words that relate to your topic)

("smoking bans" OR "smoke-free" OR "tobacco control")

(restaurants OR bars OR cafes OR dining)

AND

("smoking bans" OR "smoke-free" OR "tobacco control")

(restaurants OR bars OR cafes OR dining)

Search for Groups of Synonyms

Use parentheses to group sets of similar words.

          (Anti-smoking words)

          (Places where policies are implemented)
 

Enclose phrases in quotation marks.  "smoking bans"
 

Separate words within a group using OR.

Combine your groups using AND.

We've looked at:

EconLit
Google Scholar
See also: Tripod (articles+books from TriCo libraries), IDEAS (newest Econ research)

Statistics & Data:

- PolicyMap - Useful for quick statistics, mapping
          - Example:
 

- Statistical Abstract - Highlights datasets by topic

          - Offers clear explanations of some major datasets +

             info about the agencies that produce them.

          - Example: Search for time hours

 

Econ 91C: Public Policy Research (Spring 2019)

By Swarthmore Reference

Econ 91C: Public Policy Research (Spring 2019)

How to use EconLit to find relevant research in Economics

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