Political Science

A guide to resources for researching government and political science

The Big 3 -- Top General-Interest Journals in Political Science

The American Political Science Review

  • The flagship journal of political science.
  • General content, covering all subfields. Published by the American Political Science Association.

American Journal of Political Science

  • A general journal with a strong quantitative bent.
  • Published by the Midwest Political Science Association

Journal of Politics

  • Published by the Southern Political Science Association

Political Theory: Top 5 Journals


  • Founded in 1890, Ethics publishes scholarly work in moral, political, and legal philosophy from a variety of intellectual perspectives, including social and political theory, law, and economics.
  • In addition to major articles, Ethics also publishes review essays, discussion articles, and book reviews.

History of Political Thought

  • A quarterly journal which was launched in 1980 to fill a genuine academic need for a forum for work in this multi-disciplinary area.
  • The journal is devoted exclusively to the historical study of political ideas and associated methodological problems.
  • The primary focus is on research papers, with extensive book reviews and bibliographic surveys also included.

Journal of Political Philosophy

  • An international journal devoted to the study of theoretical issues arising out of moral, legal and political life.
  • It welcomes, and hopes to foster, work cutting across a variety of disciplinary concerns, among them philosophy, sociology, history, economics and political science.

Philosophy & Public Affairs

  • Designed to fill the need for a venue in which philosophers with different viewpoints and philosophically inclined writers from various disciplines-including law, political science, economics, and sociology-can bring their distinctive methods to bear on problems that concern everyone.

Political Theory

  • The leading forum for the development and exchange of political ideas.
  • Broad in scope and international in coverage, PT publishes articles on political philosophy from every philosophical, ideological and methodological perspective.
  • Articles address historical political thought, modern political theory, normative and analytical philosophy, the history of ideas and critical assessments of current work.

Comparative Politics: Top 5 Journals

Top 5 journals in the subfield (excluding World Politics and International Organization)

Comparative Politics

  • An international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior.
  • Founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues.

Comparative Political Studies

  • Journal articles discuss innovative work on comparative methodology, theory, and research from around the world with important implications for the formation of domestic and foreign policies.

Legislative Studies Quarterly

  • Intends to disseminate scholarly work on parliaments and legislatures, their relations to other political institutions, their functions in the political system, and the activities of their members both within the institution and outside.
  • The editors encourage contributors to emphasize the cross-national implications of their findings, even if these findings are based on research within a single country.

Latin American Research Review

  • The premier interdisciplinary journal publishes original research and surveys of current research on Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Interdisciplinary offerings offer new directions of knowledge creation in areas such as cultural studies, Latino issues and transnationalism, all of which increasingly intersect with Latin America in ways that are intellectually challenging and illuminating.

Studies in Comparative International Development

  • An interdisciplinary journal that addresses issues concerning political, social, economic, and environmental change in local, national, and international contexts.
  • Among its major emphases are political and state institutions; the effects of a changing international economy; political-economic models of growth and distribution; and the transformation of social structure and culture.

International Relations: Top 5 Journals

International Organization

  • Covers the entire field of international affairs, including:
    • foreign policies
    • international relations
    • international and comparative political economy
    • security policies
    • environmental disputes and resolutions
    • regional integration
    • alliance patterns and war
    • bargaining and conflict resolution
    • economic development and adjustment
    • international capital movements

World Politics

  • Originally founded in 1948, World Politics publishes research articles that make theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature,,article reviews, and research notes bearing on problems in international relations and comparative politics.

European Journal of International Relations

  • Although this journal neither represents a particular school or approach, nor is it restricted to any particular methodology, it seeks to strengthen ties with cognate areas in social science and beyond, in particular with international history, international law, and international economics.

Foreign Affairs

  • The leading forum for serious discussion of American foreign policy and international affairs.
  • It is published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a non-profit and nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to improving the understanding of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs through the free exchange of ideas.

International Security

  • Articles primarily address traditional topics such as war and peace, as well as more recent dimensions of security, including the growing importance of environmental, demographic, and humanitarian issues, and the rise of global terrorist networks.

American Politics: Top 5 Journals

American Politics Research

  • Serving for more than thirty years as an integral forum for the dissemination of the latest theory, research, and analysis in all areas of American politics, including local, state, and national.

Studies in American Political Development

  • Publishes scholarship on political change and institutional development in the United States from a variety of theoretical viewpoints.
  • Articles focus on governmental institutions over time and on their social, economic, and cultural setting.
  • In-depth presentation in a longer format allows contributors to elaborate on the complex patterns of state-society relations.

Presidential Studies Quarterly

  • An indispensable resource for understanding the U.S. presidency; offers articles, features, review essays, and book reviews covering all aspects of the American presidency.

State Politics & Policy Quarterly

  • SPPQ publishes high quality academic studies that develop and test general hypotheses of political behavior and policymaking, exploiting the unique advantages of the states.

State & Local Government Review

  • Provides a forum for the exchange of ideas among practitioners and academics that contributes to the knowledge and practice of state and local government politics, policy, and management.

Journal Impact Ratings: The Basics

What are journal impact ratings?

  • Journal Impact Ratings are numerical rankings intended to document the relative quality and influence of political science journals.

Two main methodologies used for these ratings

  • Reputational Ratings
    • The oldest and most traditional method used reputational ratings--that is, political science scholars were asked to rank journals in order of perceived quality.
  • Citations
    • More recently, ratings have come to rely on citations. In this approach, journals win high rankings by publishing articles which are heavily cited by subsequent scholarly publications.

Leading impact rating system

Political Science Impact Ratings Overview

  • For an overview of political science impact ratings, see "Ranking Political Science Journal: Reputational and Citational Approaches" by Michael W. Giles and James C. Garand, PS, October 2007, 741-751.

Journal Abstracts: The Basics

What is an abstract?

  • Most Journal Articles begin with an Abstract, which is a short summary which typically describes:
    • the research question that was asked
    • the methodology used to address the question
    • the findings that were arrived at

Why are abstracts useful?

  • Abstracts are an way to quickly skim an article-- You can just read the abstract instead of combing through the whole article--and they can be useful for searching too. 

Databases let you narrow search results by "abstract"

  • Most database search screens allow you to select the "Abstract" field, which allows you to do a search more specific than with the default "Anywhere" or "All Text," yet more general than searching only on the article title.

Example of Narrowing by Abstract

  • For example, let's say you're looking for an article on "voting behavior."
  • If you search "Anywhere" or "All Text," you will get articles which mention this term somewhere in the article.
    • That's likely to be a lot of articles, some of which may mention "voting behavior" but actually are about other things. 
  • You could conduct a more focused search by searching only for articles which contain "voting behavior" in the title, but that may miss some useful articles, since some articles about voting behavior won't use that exact term in the title.
  • So, searching for abstract provides a middle ground.
  • An article which mentions "voting behavior" in the abstract is likely to focus, specifically on that term.     

About Journals - The Basics

What are journals?

  • While most people are familiar with books, scholarly journals are often less understood.
  • Journals are scholarly resources, organized around a particular area--political psychology, for example, or democratic theory.

How often are they published?

  • Journals are typically published, in issues, three or four times per year

What is in a journal issue?

  • Each issue of a journal contains a number of articles, each about 25-35 pages long, focused on topics in that scholarly area.
  • For example, a recent issue of "Political Psychology" contained the following articles:
    • The Impact of Value Similarity and Power on the Perception of Threat
    • Personality and Legislative Politics: The Big Five Trait Dimensions Among U.S. State Legislators
    • Ideology, Prejudice, and Attitudes Toward Sexual Minority Social Policies and Organizations
    • On Strong Attitudes and Group Deliberation: Relationships, Structure, Changes, and Effects
    • Reasoning Is for Arguing: Understanding the Successes and Failures of Deliberation
    • Social Identity, Groups, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • The Association of Religiosity and Political Conservatism: The Role of Political Engagement
  • Along with articles, most journals contain other materials, like reviews of recent books in the field.

Journals can be useful scholarly resources, but the articles often tend to be specialized--that is, to focus on rather narrow points of a particular topic.  

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