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South Asian Studies: Beginning Your Research in South Asian Studies

An introductory guide to doing research in South Asian Studies at UCSD Library

Beginning Your Research on South Asia

Information about South Asian regions and issues can be found in a variety of formats and disciplines.  This guide is designed to direct you to major sources of information in a variety of areas.

This tab aims to help you better navigate this guide and directs you to some particularly good beginning resources for your research.

There are three useful principals to remember and apply when searching any kind of electronic search tool (a library catalog, a digital library, a database, the internet, etc.)

1. A keyword search in any resource will point you to great initial resources, but you will not find all of the resources you need this way. 

2. It is really important that you follow up on your initial searching by:

a) looking at the complete records to identify subject headings or descriptors that you can use to search further

b) carrying out seed research: go to the initial sources and check the footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies to find further resources.  It is also helpful to walk around the shelves in the library where you find initial print sources, as other related sources will be shelved in this area.

3. Use reference sources, including Literature Reviews to start your research as well.  These can help you help you clarify and narrow down your topic, define key terms, and identify great starting resources.

A few excellent online reference packages include:

For places to search for books, click on the Books and eBooks tab. Please notice that there is a subtab for Access to eBooks. See also the Dissertations and Theses page.  Even though dissertations and theses are unpublished book-length works, they are often important sources of original information and their bibliographies can lead you to other sources.  They are also helpful as templates for your own theses and dissertations.

To locate academic journal articles, use the various databases listed on the Finding Articles tab.

Primary sources are of particular importance in doing historical research or identifying first-hand perspectives on topics.  Some of the information may be in archives that have been digitized.  In some cases, the documents themselves may not yet be digitized, but finding aids to those collections help you identify if they can be helpful in your research.  Beneath the main "Primary Sources" tab on this research guide are several specialized pages identifying ways to access different kinds of primary sources.  These include  Archives and Archival Information; Government Resources; Images and Maps; Statistics/Data Sets/Public Opinion; Newspapers; and Government Information; Primary-Source-Rich-Materials Accessible at UCSD [These include resources unique to UCSD and resources that UCSD pays to provide access to] and Primary-Source-Rich-Materials beyond UCSD [These include open-access digital libraries and materials that may be borrowed via inter-library-loan].  

Please note that:

  • Government information from South Asia often includes presidential messages, statements of public policy, and government produced statistics about country and its activities.  U.S. government information (particularly hearings and State Department documents) contain a wealth of information about U.S. relations with South Asia.
  • Quantitative data (statistics, data sets/ public opinion surveys, etc.) are important sources to use to support ideas you put forth.  These may require a basic knowledge of statistical program such as STATA

Find these and other kinds of primary sources on the various tabs underneath the Primary Sources parent page.

News Sources are very important for all kinds of resource and Country Information tools can help with basic or advanced data and analysis of current events.

Additional Starting Points for South Asian Topics Include:

The Center for Research Library(CRL)'s South Asia Materials Project, which points to digital and microform collection of unique materials related to the study of South Asia.  See also CRL's South Asian Studies Research Guide

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is an excellent resource for books, periodicals, manuscripts, newspapers, and archival materials in print, microfilm, and digital formats. UCSD belongs to this international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries, which allows UCSD patrons to borrow CRL materials via interlibrary loan for extended periods.

 

Keyword Search Strategies and Tools

Try one or two of the following strategies in the database you want to use.  Not all of them are available in every database. Different strategies will change your results and help you target the articles you need.

  Boolean Operators   

Truncation is a search technique that broadens your search to include various word endings. To truncate your search terms, replace the word ending with an asterik *.

infographic that shows the truncated politic* will return results for politics, politician, and political

 

Limits provide database-specific recommendations for narrowing a search. Applying limits will filter out results that don’t meet your search requirements. This will save you time because you won’t need to look through pages of search results that don’t include the information that you need Each database offers different limits. Be sure to check them out to see how they can help you with your search.

For example: In the database, Historical Abstracts, you can filter your search results for peer review, publication date, document type, language, subject, etc.

The image below illustrates how applying limits will help you to narrow
your search results.

nested circles that show how applying limits will reduce the number of results. The largest circle shows 8,747 results of a search on the Enlightenment. A smaller circle within that shows 256 results for a search on the Enlightenment and the Catholic Church. The smallest inner circle shows that search limited to peer reviewed articles, with 230 results

 

It's important to know that databases use subject headings to organize their articles. When you know the right subject headings for your topic, you can search more efficiently. Starting out on a new topic, you won't know the subject terminology. A simple way to find them is to start with a keyword search. When you find an article title that meets your needs, look for the subject headings assigned to that article. In most cases, those subject headings are hyperlinked and will take you to a list of articles with the same subject heading.

screenshot of an article page with an arrow pointing to the Subject Terms. You'll find a list of subject headings or subject terms in each record. The subject headings, or subject terms, are hyperlinked and will send you to a list of records with that subject heading

screenshot of an article's abstract with several keywords highlighted. The abstract is a brief summary of the article that can help you determine is you want to read the full text. Use the abstract to help modify your search by skimming it for additional keywords

Scholarly articles often have extensive bibliographies, also called reference lists or works cited pages. Bibliographies include references to articles, books, and other relevant literature that were published before the article. Some databases provide links to the cited references so that you can look at those articles as well, which might provide more articles for you to use in your paper.

Cited References can help you find articles that are older than the one you are reading.

An Examplle:

infographic of a 2003 article, articles in its bibliography from 1998, 2000, and 2002, plus Times Cited articles from 2006, 2009, and 2011 that have the 2003 article in their bibliography

Look at the example to the left. If you found a relevant article from 2003, you could look at the articles in the bibliography to see where your article got the information used to support their main points. These older articles can also be useful to your research, especially if you need to write a literature review.

You can use a similar method to find newer articles, by looking at the articles who have cited your 2003 article in their bibliographies. To find out more about this method, see the tab for Times Cited references.

 

 

Some databases, like Web of Science, include times cited references. Think of these as the opposite of a bibliography. Where bibliographies include references that are older than the article, times cited references are newer than the article.

Times Cited references can help you find articles that are more recent than the one you are reading.

An Examplle:

infographic of a 2003 article, articles in its bibliography from 1998, 2000, and 2002, plus Times Cited articles from 2006, 2009, and 2011 that have the 2003 article in their bibliography

Look at the example to the left. Let’s say your professor doesn’t let you include references in your paper that are older than 2005. You are finding articles about your topic, but they are all too old. Even the best article about your topic was published in 2003.

Using times cited references, you could see which articles have cited the 2003 article. Chances are you will find one published a more recently that you could use for your paper.

 

 

When you find an article that you think will be a good to use, you can take advantage of “related articles” to find similar articles. Databases have different formulas for determining how an article is “related,” but it usually is a combination of same keywords and descriptors.

You can usually find a list of related articles on the results screen of the database.

infographic of a great article connected to related articles

Country Information

Click on the Country Information and Reports tab for a list of resources providing background, introductory, and even advanced country information and reports.  Many of these resources are taken from the Statistics/Data Tab of the UCSD Library International Government Information Research Guide which points to resources to find great background information and statistics on countries around the world. Using such resources is a helpful place to start research on any Latin American country.

Another great source for information on international topics and individual countries are the United Nations Research Guides.