Doing Research in International Relations

POLS 004 • Fall 2023

Simon Elichko (they/them)

Social Sciences & Data Librarian


Class today


Last week's discussion about understanding the causes of war by using the levels of analysis framework (Kenneth Waltz, 1959)



  1. Understand methods and resources for researching the causal factors of a war in an informed and intentional way
  2. Strengthen your research skills by using these methods and resources to inform your understanding of the causes of the current Russia-Ukraine war
  3. Be equipped to work on the final research assignment for this class (and to do research in other classes and contexts as well)

Doing research vs.

directionless tab overload

stylized illustration of multiple browser windows, each with many open tabs

Break down your project into smaller,
more approachable parts

Final research paper

  1. Choose a contemporary IR problem
  2. Assess the technical/factual nature of it (significance, causes)
  3. Explain the origins and what solutions have been attempted
  4. Assess the interests and policies of the most influential actors
  5. Propose a realistic way to address some aspect of the problem

Practices that can help you actively build knowledge as you look for sources

News, Social Media, and
Web Archives

Dealing with Paywalls

Common problem: paywalls

"You've run out of free articles for the month..."
"Buy this e-book..."   "Pay $45 for this article PDF..."

screenshot of a new york times article blocked by a paywall

Solution to paywalls: Library subscriptions

You have free access to thousands of newspapers, and magazines through Swarthmore's Libraries.
(Scholarly journals too, but we'll come back to that.)

Major news sources:

  • New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Financial Times


  • Foreign Affairs
  • Foreign Policy
  • The Economist
  • The Atlantic

How to access news, magazines, and journals through the libraries

Swarthmore News & Magazines Research Guide

  • Find the news source you need (e.g. NYT, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs)
  • If needed, follow instructions to set up your account and login

Search Tripod for the publication

How to look up a news article and request a PDF (if needed)

  1. Search Tripod for the publication title (e.g. New York Times, The Economist, New Yorker). (Here's an example search.)
  2. Look for the publication in your results. Click on the best match to continue. Find access links under "View Online." (here's an example)
  3. If you can't find the publication in Tripod, you can request a PDF of the article. The library will look for a copy and email you a PDF, usually within a few days.

    To request a PDF: Go to Borrow Beyond TriCo. Choose the journal article request link. Fill out the form with the article information.

Finding relevant and reliable news coverage

Using Google to find articles from
specific news sources

If you search for Yemen airstrikes in Google, you'll get results from a wide range of sources.


How to make your search more precise:

More ways to find reliable and

relevant news coverage

How to make your search more precise:

Dealing with broken links:
Web archives

If you come across a broken link, copy the URL.

Then go to the Wayback Machine, paste the URL, and look for archived versions of the site.


For example: updates from a Greenpeace anti-coal campaign in Greece.

You may have to try multiple dates to find an archived version that works. Be persistent.

Finding scholarly research (articles, books)

Resources for finding relevant academic sources

Annotated reading lists

Particularly helpful for topics written about extensively (e.g. WWI)


Academic articles & books by topic

  • Web of Science - Lets you filter results by subject and journal
  • Tripod - Find books you can access easily (online and print)


See research guide page Finding Academic Articles & Books

How to search more effectively for academic articles and books

For example, this search in the database Web of Science.


  1. Change the drop-down menu to Topic
  2. Enter Ukrain* to search for Ukraine, Ukranian, Ukranians
  3. Enter Russi* to search for Russia, Russians, etc.
  4. On the results page, you can filter to Political Science and International Relations
Screenshot of Web of Science database
  1. Search Tripod for the article title. Look for a matching result and follow links to access.  (example: Teaching South African History in a Digital Age)
  2. Can't find it in Tripod? Apply the search filter Include results without full text to see more results.  (see this example)

    Click on your article title if it appears in the results. Follow the prompt to login to Tripod, then click on Request via Interlibrary Loan.
  3. Still not seeing your article in Tripod?  Go to Borrow Beyond TriCo, then choose the journal article request link.

    Fill out the form to request a PDF of the article.

How to get access to an academic journal article

Short exercise:
Russia-Ukraine War

  • Submit your assignment here:
  • Use the resources and techniques we discussed today to find two sources
  • Include a paragraph explaining how the sources relate to specific causal explanations/factors theorized in the readings discussed for last class.
  • Aim for one news/non-academic source and
    one academic source

Develop your research skills
& get support with your projects

Meet with Simon

Schedule at

Or email them at


Get peer support from Research & Information Associates

Stop by the McCabe Research & Info Desk


Use the chat in Tripod to get help from librarians and RIAs