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SMU Libraries

Introduction to Political and Policy Studies (POSC003): Your Assignment

Research guide for information resources on political science

Assignment Requirements

Read your assignment carefully.

  • What is your topic?
  • What is the length required?
  • What is the deadline?


A Few Tips for Opinion Piece Writers by Andrew Leigh

Online Opinion Piece by University of Texas

Writing a Critical Book Review by ANU

Book Reviews by UNC Writing Center

Writing Book Reviews by Univ Wisconsin

What is Critical Writing by Univ of Leicester

Writing a Critical Review by Univ of New South Wales

Check out the Learning Guide on Avoiding Plagiarism by the Centre of Teaching Excellence & the Library.

Your Topic Essay

Your professor provided a topic essay prompt.  Follow the steps below to get started with your research.

  • Write out your topic in the form of a phrase, sentence or question
  • Identify the key words or key concepts
  • Come up with alternative terms for the key concepts
    (Note: alternative terms returns more results, but SOME terms may not have alternative terms)
  • Do you need definitions of terms? Check Dictionaries / encyclopedias / handbooks
  • Do you need an overview of the topic? Check Encyclopedias / handbooks, or search the Library Catalogue for books
  • Do you need to find what research has been done on the topic? Find articles by searching databases using keywords
  • Do you need country information? Check Country Overviews
  • Do you need data to back up your arguments? Find data
  • Do you need current news? Search newspapers or magazines
  • Note the details of sources found so that you can cite them in your assignment. Most databases allow you to copy or export the citation details.
  • Obtain the full text of each source
  • Check the Reference Lists in the source for more relevant sources
  • Do you have enough materials to finish the assignment?
  • If no, change the words used to search or change the database / source used
  • If yes, start reading and analysing what you have found and writing up your assignment


Read the news about Ma Ying-Jeou winning the elections in Taiwan.

Check out the country overview on Taiwan in 2011 in Asian Survey (2012).

Explore the implications of the re-election of Ma Ying-jeou on foreign relations policy in Taiwan, especially with China.

Topic: Implications for foreign relations policy with China after Taiwan's presidential elections

Key words:

  1. Foreign relations or Foreign relations policy or Cross-straits relations or Chinese reunification question  
  2. Taiwan or Republic of China
  3. China or People's Republic of China
  4. Elections or President or Political leader or Ma Ying-Jeou or Chen Shui-bian

Search strategy: foreign relations and taiwan and china
OR: elections and taiwan
OR: (Ma Ying Jeou or Ma Yingjeou or MA Yingjiu)

Finding Articles

Search PRIMO / Political Science Complete / PAIS / Academic Search Complete / Taylor & Francis Online to get results like:

Finding News Articles

Search Factiva

Search strategy: Taiwan and elections and China

Finding Overview

Search some possible sources in Handbooks and Dictionaries

Finding Books

Search PRIMO to find these books:

Search Tools

Databases have powerful search tools to help you get relevant results.

AND – use to specify that both words must be present. E.g. Japan AND China

OR – use to specify that either words can be present. E.g. Asia OR Asian

* – use to replace characters in the word and helps to retrieve variations of the word. The symbol used may vary from database to database. Check the help or search tips in the database. E.g. Use globali* to include words like (globalise or globalize or globalizing or globalisation or globalization).

( ) – use to specify which group of words to process first. E.g. nationalism and (Asia OR Asian)

"Phrase search" – use to specify the order of the words. E.g. “National identity”

Field search – use to specify the field that the words must appear. E.g. Nationalism in SU Subject Terms or Korea in GE Geographic Terms

Check the individual database Help page for more tools

The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy