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PACS 108: Pacific Worlds: Welcome!

An introduction to Pacific Studies


This guide is intended for undergraduates in Pacific Islands Studies and related courses. As of Fall 2020, all Pacific Islands Studies courses are being offered online owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, this guide focuses on online-available resources. A more comprehensive guide to online sources for Hawai'i and Pacific research can be found here:

Thinking About Keywords

Keywords are the terms that researchers use to run searches in databases. These terms distill your research question down to a few essential words. There are many ways to come up keywords -- when doing research that relates to the Pacific Islands, one potential strategy is to use one word that describes the subject of your research, and another word that identifies the place you are researching. For instance, if you just search for "education" in a library database, you will literally get a million results. But if you search "education" and "Samoa," you will narrow your results down to information that relates to education in Samoa. If, on the other hand, you are interested in education of Samoan youth in Hawaii, you might consider using three terms: "education," "Samoan," and "Hawaii." Ultimately, keyword searching involves a bit of skill, a bit of patience and a lot of trial and error -- but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. As a general rule of thumb, if you are getting too many results, this usually means you need to refine your search by coming up with additional keywords; if you are getting too few results, you are either using too many keywords, or need to come up with different terms. This website includes some excellent advice on how to brainstorm keywords.

Thinking Critically About Perspective

For any given research topic, there are numerous potential sources of information. When evaluating the quality of different types of resources, think about the different perspectives, voices and types of resources you could include in your final research project. This will help to determine the level of analysis and depth of understanding you could expect to achieve in relation to your selected topic. Thinking on this level will help you to generate more texture in your project too — combining different perspectives, voices, and types of material (including images, information from academic, journalistic, and other literary sources), will make your project more interesting for you and your audience. These questions may help you to identify different perspectives and voices:

1. Who is the author? What is her or his point of view? Why do you trust or distrust this point of view?

2. In your sources, where are the indigenous voices?

3. Where are the voices of scholars and other analysts?

4. Often information on a topic is a conversation of many voices — who are the various voices speaking on your topic? Are they all represented in your sources of information?

Evaluating Websites