Western Libraries

Political Science 3340

A guide for POL 3340 - The Rise and Fall of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe

Pol 3340 The Rise and Fall of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe

Resources for Rise & Fall of Communism in the USSR & Eastern Europe - POL 3340


The Research Process

Scholarly Resources

Databases for 3340

Web-based Resources (HANDLE WITH CARE!)

Country Profiles

How to Get Help

The guide is designed to assist you with your research for POL 3340.

If you require additional assistance with your research please contact Western Libraries.

The Research Process

This is a six step process (adapted from the Cornell University Olin & Uris Libraries) that will assist you as you undertake research for your research paper.

Step 1: Find & develop your topic.

First and foremost, find an issue that interests you. Develop your question, or thesis statement. For some tips on writing a good thesis statement, check HERE.

Identify the key concepts and keywords for your question. Brainstorm and create a list of synonyms of the concepts. There are many resources that will help you find synonyms. See, for example, Sara Knapp's Contemporary Thesaurus of Search Terms and Synonyms: A Guide for Natural Language Computer Searching.

Step 2: Determine what you already know.

Incorporate your existing knowledge with what you have learned in class and from the class readings to date. Lecture notes, textbooks and readings will inform your efforts. You will have identified themes, concepts, people and events that may be important to your question. This process will help you to determine the best places to start your search.

Step 3: Find background information.

Take the keywords and concepts you identified in the first step and and look them up in the indexes and table of contents of the Subject Encyclopedias that are available Online and in print in the D.B. Weldon Reference collection. Please refer to the Program Guides pages for Political Science - International under the Encyclopedia tab for excellent background resources.

Read articles in the subject encyclopedias to develop an understanding of the context for your research. Pay particular attention to relevant items in the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia articles.

Here are some excellent background resources that focus specifically on the regions covered by POL 3340F. These PRINT titles are available in the Weldon Reference Collection:

Encyclopedia of Russian History
DBW Reference DK36.E53 2004, Vol. 1. A-D; Vol. 2. E-L; Vol. 3. M-R; Vol. 4. S-Z, index.

The Newly Independent States of Eurasia: Handbook of Former Soviet Republics
DBW Reference DK17.B34 1997

The rise and fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991
DBW Reference DK266.A3S35 1999

Russia and the Former Soviet Union: a Bibliographic Guide to English Language Publications, 1986-1991.
DBW Reference Z2483.H544 1994

These ELECTRONIC titles are available in through the Library Catalogue (Licensed to Western Users Only)

Oxford Reference Online Premium
Provides access to: A Dictionary of Political Biography, The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics. An excellent place to find basic information on imporant people, places, events and concepts that will inform your research.

Europa World Plus
This work features statistical, political, and historical information on countries around the world. Licensed to Western users only.

Step 4: Search for Scholarly sources.

Catalogue for Books

In the Shared Library Catalogue https://lib.uwo.ca/ you will find electronic and print books owned by Western Libraries.
In the Catalogue you can search by:

• Author
• Title
• Keyword
• Subject

The Keyword Search option is the best place to start your search, unless you know a specific author’s name or a title of a work.

Think through the concepts in your search topic before you begin at the computer.

Before you start looking in the catalogue, break your topic into keywords and phrases:

e.g., thesis: Despite extensive Western efforts at democracy promotion, the democratic tide has somewhat retreated
in newly independent Eastern Europe countries

Keywords/concepts: Democracy, newly independent states, Eastern Europe

Look for synonyms (and antonyms) for your each of your keyword/concepts:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3

political change
civil rights

newly independent state(s)
former USSR
country in transition
countries in transition

Eastern Europe
Eastern Bloc
Warsaw Pact nation(s)*
Soviet Republics

Combine the synonyms with “OR” in the search box to broaden your search:

  • e.g., (democratic OR democracy OR political change OR "civil rights" OR democratization)

Combine the different concepts (keywords and phrases) with “AND” to narrow your search:

  • e.g., (Easter Europe OR Eastern Bloc) AND (democratic OR democracy OR political change OR "civil rights" OR democratization)

Use the Truncation symbol (*) to get different endings and plurals of words (up to five additional letters for most databases or catalogues):

  • democrat* will search for: democratic, democracy, democratize (note: democratization (with seven letters following democrat, would require two **)

Use the Wildcard Symbol (?) to look for variations in spelling:

  • democrati?ation = democratization or democratisation

Refine your search:

Once you have located authors and studies, look at the keywords and subject terms they use. Use those words and terms to refine your search.

Examine the books and articles (dig deeper in bibliographies and references) that were used by “high quality” authors to make their arguments. Search for additional works by the authors you regard as substantial.

Look at the Subject Headings of our results to refine your search. You will be using the controlled vocabulary, the language of the catalogue.

Revise, revise, and revise again! Stop and reconsider the terms you are using in your searching. The language for a subject/discipline, for example, may have changed over time.

Databases for Articles

The Databases that support your research can be found under the Database Tab on the Program Guides pages.

Before you start looking in the databases, break your topic into keywords, terms or phrases.

If you need help brainstorming for terms, use a thesaurus specifically designed for the database. ProQuest Political Science & Public Administration  has a Subject Thesaurus that will help you identify key terms, etc. (You will find the thesaurus under the Search Tools Tab o the Database.) Unlike Scholars Portal Search, ABSEES, the American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies, an essential database, does not have a thesaurus.

If you are not using a database such as Proquest Political Science, and there is no available thesaurus, try resources like Sara Knapp's Contemporary Thesaurus of Search Terms and Synonyms: A Guide for Natural Language Computer Searching. This will supply you with many ideas for search terms.

The default search field for a database typically is “Anywhere.” If you are getting too many results from your search you should restrict the field within which you are searching. Try searching in Keywords or Abstract or Descriptor (subject heading) to reduce the results and increase the relevance of the results you get. Note: Descriptors or Subject Headings are controlled vocabulary and the terms you use must match exactly with the subject headings applied to the information.

You can sort your results by Relevance, or Date.

When you have selected appropriate resources for your research print or save the results or, send the results to a Citation Management tool such as Mendeley or Zotero.

Refine your search:

When you have located relevant resources look at the keywords and subject terms that are used. Use those terms to further refine your search.
Examine the results (dig deeper in the bibliographies and reference lists) that were used by “high quality” authors to make their arguments.
Examine additional works by the authors you regard as substantial.

Look at the Subject Headings of our results to refine your searches.

Revise, revise, and revise again. Stop and reconsider the terms you are using in your searching. The language for a subject/discipline, for example, may have changed over time.

Step 5: Incorporate new knowledge

It is essential that you critically evaluate the information you have found. There are a number of critical questions that you should ask when you consider the appropriateness of a book, article, or web site for your research. Is the information current, accurate, authoritative, objective?

To help you undertake this evaluation please refer to the Guide: How Do I Evaluate Information Resources.

Step 6: Acknowledge your sources

The final, but most important step in the research process…
No matter what you do (take an idea or borrow an example), you cannot fail to acknowledge another persons work.

For your POL 3340 essay, as with all essays, you must format citations in your bibliography using the style required by your instructor.

Guide for Chicago Style can be found here: Chicago

APA (American Psychological Association) Guide can be found here: APA

MLA (Modern languages Association) Guide can be found here: MLA

Bibliographic management tools are available to help you organize your research and then use it to print you list of citations.


Some final thoughts on the research process:

Before you start your research keep these three overarching ideas in mind:

Work from the general to the specific.

First locate the background information, then use more specific and recent sources.

Record what you discovered and where you discovered it.

Databases and catalogues let you email, print your citations or you can send the references to bibliographic management tools like Zotero or Mendeley or ProCite. If you do not know how to do this make sure you write out a complete citation for each source you find; you may need to refer to it again in the future. If you need help with citations, please get in touch with Reference Staff or refer to the Style Guides located here.

Translate the concepts for your topic into the language used by the catalogue or the database (subject headings, descriptors).

Check your topic words/concepts against a thesaurus or subject heading list in the database or catalogue. This will let you increase the relevance of the results you get with your search.

Scholarly Sources

To succeed in your course assignments you must identify and use scholarly resources.

What counts as a ‘scholarly’ resource?

  • essays / chapters published in edited books (works of criticism) written by academics
  • articles published in academic journals and/or peer-reviewed publications

A Scholarly book or article is typically based on original research.

The author is usually an expert in the field and is affiliated with a University.

The author will cite their sources with footnotes and bibliographies.

While charts and tables are a feature that is sometimes found in scholarly works, glossy pictures are not.

Scholarly resources are published by academic presses and are subject to a peer-review process. The peer review process involves "experts" (other scholars) evaluating the research prior to publication.

Here is a very useful table that will help you distinguish scholarly journals from popular journals, trade publications and general interest publications.



Databases for POL 3340F

Important Reminder: To use most of the electronic resources when you are working from home you must remember to log onto Off-Campus Access. This log-in is always available on the top left side of the page.

There are several excellent resources for finding scholarly and other resources for your annotated bibliography and your research paper. You can access these resources from the Database tab on the Program Guides pages for Political Science - International.

An OMNI search, using the box found below  on the Western Libraries homepage, or the  ProQuest Political Science & Public Administration  database are excellent places to begin your search for scholarly articles. Within ProQuest Political Science & Public Administration you can search several additional databases that cover issues pertaining to Eastern Europe and Pre and Post Communist Soviet Union: World Wide Political Science Abstracts, PAIS and, the International Bibliography of the Social Science. The database also searches EconLit, the primary database for the study of issues in Economics. This might be helpful if you are looking at issues with an economic component.

With the ProQuest Political Science & Public Administration database you can search in many fields for information: keywords, titles, authors, abstracts, descriptors (also known as subject headings). The default location for your search will be "All Fields - text." If you are getting too many results and results that are not relevant you can refine your search and increase relevance by searching in "all Fields - No Text" or Abstracts or Subject Heading. Subject Heading searches are controlled vocabulary searches and the terms you use must match exactly with the subject headings applied to the information.  To find those exact Subject Headings use the Thesaurus (link located above the fields box).

Additional Databases:

There are many other resources that will be useful for your research.

American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies (ABSEES)

Indexes journal articles, books, dissertations, selected government publications, and online resources published in the US and Canada on East and Central Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet Union. Subjects Covered: Anthropology, Ethnology, and Archeology; Culture and the Arts; Economics and Foreign Trade; Education and Scholarship; Geography and Demography; Government, Law, and Politics; History; International Relations; Language and Linguistics; Literature; Military Affairs; Philosophy, Political Theory, and Ideology; Psychology; Religion; Science and Technology; Sociology; and Women's Studies.

European Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies (EBSEES Online)
EBSEES lists books, journal articles, reviews and theses on Eastern Europe (formerly Communist countries) published in the eight countries of Western Europe: France, England, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, and Switzerland. It includes documents from all these countries, whether published in that country’s language or in the languages of the countries studied. This includes national minorities and émigré publications. The database contains over 50,000 bibliographical citations to works published between 1991 and 1996.

Please note that just because an article came from a Library database does not mean it is necessarily a scholarly resource, and therefore, it might not satisfy the requirements for your assignments.
(PLEASE refer to the section on Scholarly Resources to find tools for evaluating resources.)



There are many web-based resources that will support your research. Some, from think tanks, research institutes and government agencies are of the highest quality. Some resources are highly suspect.

Please note: it is essential that you thoroughly evaluate the resources that you use. You must consider authority, objectivity, currency, depth and breadth of coverage. Please refer to: How Do I Evaluate Information Resources before using a resource from the Web. The following four links provide access to information that may be of value to your research. Do not, however, assume that their presence on this page necessarily means they have all been thoroughly evaluated.

Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies
CERES is the successor to the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Toronto, which for more than forty years was Canada's premier program for interdisciplinary study of Eastern, Central, and South-eastern Europe.

Diplomacy Monitor
Increasingly nations are launching public diplomacy campaigns on the Internet, with the goal of shaping public opinion and responding quickly to current issues and events. Monitoring the hundreds of government web sites and centralizing this information, the St. Thomas University School of Law offers an international spectrum of communiqués, transcripts, briefing papers, news releases and other diplomatic documents. Official English translations or computerized translations are provided where needed.

Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy
Chartered in 1988, ISCIP focuses on transitional societies in crisis, especially Russia and other post-Soviet states, paying particular attention to destabilizing factors of a political, ethnic, and/or international nature.

This site provides a forum for publication and distribution of research and discussion relating to social, economic, and political issues.

Country Profiles

A substantial collection of resources are available to aid your search for information on specific countries. Begin with general background sources such as: Oxford Reference Premium Online. This exceptional Online encyclopedia will help you identify trends, people, places, important dates etc., on many countries and regions.

To obtain more specific political, economic, cultural and social outlines of individual countries you should consider consulting the following reference works: (NOTE: as with all resources you must evaluate the information you are finding. Is the site you are using providing information that is: objective, up to date, accurate, authoritative?)

Brief Country Information Sources

World Factbook
In almanac style, this site provides a two-to-three page summary of 268 U.S. recognized countries including their territories and dependencies. The website is updated every two weeks.

Europa World Plus Licensed to Western users only.
Provides information on the United Nations, its agencies, and other international organizations. It also features statistical, political, and historical information on countries around the world.

Library of Congress Country Studies
101 countries and regions are covered. The original intent of the series' sponsor was to focus primarily on lesser-known areas of the world or regions in which U.S. forces might be deployed.   PLEASE NOTE:  These resources are electronic versions of hardcover books published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress between 1988 and 1998 as part of the Department of the Army's Country Studies/Area Handbook Series.  As such they information is not current and should be used for their historical value.

Political Risk Yearbook Licensed to Western users only.
For over 100 countries information is provided in a standard format that allows one to assess the risks of doing business in the countries profiled. The profiles are very detailed. They cover history and geography of the country, social conditions and international relationships. The database also provides 18 month and 5-year forecasts.

World Development Indicators (WDI Online) Licensed to Western users only.
WDI Online is the premier data source on the global economy. It contains statistical data for over 575 development indicators and time series data from 1960--2002 for over 220 countries and country groups. Data includes social, economic, financial, natural resources, and environmental indicators. Data selection screens are intuitive and easy to use. Results can be scaled, indexed against a particular year, viewed by percentage change, and charted. Data can also be exported in standard formats like Excel. The database is updated periodically with annual data loaded in May. Related databases: World Bank e-library, Global Development Finance.

Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI)
This site offers aggregate and individual governance indicators for 212 countries and territories over the period 1996-2006, for six dimensions of governance.

International Monetary Fund Country Information

This site offers news and data for approximately 180 countries. This service includes links to central banks, economic indicators, and member financial data

Detailed Country Information Sources

Country Report - Economist Intelligence Unit: EIU Licensed to Western users only.
This source offers nearly 200 Country Reports, covering the political scene and economic policy issues. Articles, about 40-50 pages in length, are updated 4 times a year. Additionally, 6-8 page supplements are provided monthly.

Country Profile - Economist Intelligence Unit: EIU Licensed to Western Users only
Country Profiles offers information on 200 countries - providing an annual perspective on the long-term political and social issues that affect the countries. The annual reports are available in PDF format, with an archive of earlier reports.

Resources with Regional Focus

Searchable by date and keyword. Independent web sites are sources of information. Information and assistance regarding the cultural, economic, social, historical and political dimensions of Asia. Includes a daily digest of Asia-related news reported in the international press; the Web's largest Asia bookstore, thousands of annotated links; country profiles which include maps and statistical information; a database of specialists on Asia, a large searchable glossary; a guide to business protocol in 12 of Asia's major business markets and an up-to-date directory of government leaders and cabinet ministers and an international events calendar of events from the Asia Society and scores of other organizations.

For more ways to discover in-depth country profiles please check THIS LINK to Country Profiles.


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The D.B. Weldon Library

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