Photo Credit: Afghanistan Mosque - June 2002 by Paul Cruickshank. USAID, Office of Transition Initiatives.

Research Guide for NES 268

Political Islam

Research guide created by
John J. Hernandez
Politics Librarian, Firestone Library

Basic Reference Books

Dictionaries and encyclopedias clarify terminology that can help in searching for books and articles, as well as developing a general understanding of your field. Dictionaries provide definitions and usage of terms. Encyclopedias provide more in-depth explanations of key individuals, events, and concepts. The following titles can help provide clarification of concepts, names, organzations, and individuals related to political Islam.

Background Information Sources

Since your assignment will be focused on a particular Islamist group, it may be useful to gather some background information on the countries in which such groups are based and conduct their operations. The following sources will provide political, economic, and some social information on various countries of the world.

Information on Islamist Groups

A main thrust of your assignment will be to gather information about a particular Islamist group in order to construct a working profile. The following resources are helpful for locating information about various Islamist groups operating in countries throughout the world. These sources will provide some information concerning the group's activities, history, political and religious affiliations, and to some extent, their motivations.

Finding Books

The Main Catalog is your primary tool for finding books in the Princeton University Libraries that deal with Islamist groups. The catalog also helps you find other materials, including videos, sound recordings, internet sites, and journals (the journals themselves- not individual articles). The Main Catalog provides two search modes: Basic Search and Guided Search.

Use Basic Search when...

  • You know the exact title, author's name, subject heading, or call number
  • You want to do a simple keyword search anywhere within the catalog record

Use Guided Search when...

  • You want to do a complex keyword search
  • You want to do a keyword search in one or more specific fields

Start your search out using keywords, which can be a useful technique since you may not be familiar with all the name variants for the Islamist groups you are researching. Be sure to use the Long View feature to see the full record displaying the subject headings that describe the subject matter of the item. When you find items that seem relevant to your topic, use the subject headings to find additional related items.

If you don't seem to find any books specifically on the group you wish to study, try using the name of the country in which the group operates as a subject heading. Remember that traveling down the list of headings will take you to subjects that are further sub-divided and, therefore, more specific. Traveling up the list gets you subjects that are more general. In addition, subject headings for general topics are often sub-divided by geographic regions or countries. Here are some examples:

  • Country Name History
  • Country Name Politics and government
  • Country Name Foreign relations
  • Country Name Economic conditions
  • Country Name Social conditions
  • Islam and state Country Name
  • Islamic fundamentalism Country Name
  • Islam and politics Country Name

If you find your subject searches are not yielding good results, you might want to look at the Library of Congress Subject Headings located at the reference desk. This set of large red volumes provides a listing of the appropriate subject headings that correspond to various topics. Be sure to ask the staff at the reference desk for assistance.

When you find an item you'd like to obtain, be sure to pay attention to the location, call number, and status as indicated in the catalog record. See the list of location codes for help determining in which library collection the item is held. The call number shows where in the collection the item should be, and the status tells you whether the book is available or not. For more tips on using the Main Catalog see the Help Page.

Beyond the Main Catalog, you have access to other Princeton Library catalogs, as well as regional and worldwide catalogs, via the Library Catalogs Page. If you find items outside of Princeton, you can request these be sent here via Interlibrary Loan or Borrow Direct.

Finding Articles

There are several databases that are useful for locating journal articles, book chapters, working papers, etc. about Islamist groups and movements. You may also want to consult the many useful resources listed on the pages for Near Eastern Studies, African Studies, Latin American Studies, and Russian/Slavic Studies. Here's a useful search strategy that works for essentially any article index database.

General & Multi-disciplinary Databases:

Specialized Databases:

Finding News Sources

News sources can be very useful for finding primary coverage of specific events, as well as feature articles and editorials related to your topic. For additional resources, be sure to consult the Newspaper Indexes page.

Contemporary News - U.S. & International (mid-1980s to present):

Historical News (back to mid-1800s):

Foreign News (1975-present):

Sources of Public Opinion

Another way of analyzing the impact that Islamist groups are having is to research how public opinion towards them has changed over time. The following are some sources that may help you to find measures of public opinion regarding your group as well as other relevant issues.

For additional sources, see the Politics, political attitudes and behavior, Public opinion polls, and the Race, ethnicity and ethnic relations sections of the Data & Statistical Services page.

Databases for finding opinion sources:

Individual opinion studies:

Useful Web Sites

The following are just a sampling of web sites that may prove useful for gathering additional information.