Selecting a Topic & Background Research

The Library has a large number of subject specific online encyclopedias, companions and handbooks with exhaustive and well-researched entries written by subject experts. These essays are generally helpful startiing points and can help you in defining and focusing your topic. Essays generally include bibliographies that will lead you to further sources on your topic.

Find a sampling of useful sociology and methods resources below.  More encyclopedias, companions and handbooks can be found on the Communication E-Reference list and in the library's online catalog.

 Recommended E-Reference Resources

  Encyclopedia of Political Communication

  Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media

  Media and Politics in America: A Reference Handbook

  Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

  Encyclopedia of Journalism

  Routledge Companion to News and Journalism

Article Databases

You are required to find scholarly resarch articles for your term paper.  One method for finding these articles is searching article databases.  The databases listed here are all very specific to research in the communication arts.

 Key Communication Databases

  Communication & Mass Media Complete (EBSCO)

  Communication Abstracts (EBSCO)

  ComAbstracts (CIOS)

Article Database Search Tips

  • Use synonyms, brainstorm and mine found resources
  • Notice controlled vocabulary, index, descriptor and subject terms.  Take good notes!
  • Use truncation to search for all terms with the same root: child* for child, children and childhood
  • Combine terms with boolean operators, AND contains both terms, OR contains at least one term
  • Search phrases; quotes work for most databases
  • Use dropdown menu or radio buttons to limit search to fields such as title, subject, abstract, descriptors
  • Save time and frustration with the Help menu: every database has one!

Finding Articles in Full Text findit.gif

Once you have identified a useful article, check to see whether it is available in full text from that database.  You will see a link or an icon for an HTML or PDF version of the article (sometimes the full article is displayed below the abstract).  If the article is not available in full text through that database, it may still be available through another resource.  Click the find it button to see if it is available.  This will take you to the 360Link screen:


Finding Articles: Beyond Database Searching

Database searching is not the only way to find great scholarly articles for your research project.  Once you have found useful articles, pay attention to the sources those authors use to build their own research.  It is likely that the sources that were important to those authors will also be important to your research.  All scholarly research should include a thorough bibliography or reference list at the end of the article.

To check the library's holdings for the full text of a journal article you found on a list of references, use the steps outlined in this video:


2008prescampaign.jpgAlthough you are required to find scholarly journal articles for this research project, books are still an important source of scholarly information.  Often it is easier to review a book on your topic before beginning your article searches.  A book can give a broader perspective on your topic, while journal articles tend to be very narrowly focused.  Even if you do not reference the book in your term paper, it can still serve as an important source for finding key scholarly research articles on your topic.

For example, take a look at this catalog search of the Search Tab for mass media politics.  Use the options on the right to fine tune the search to your topic area.  Use the date fileds to limit to a recent time period. 



APA Style

Using a particular writing style, such as APA can be challenging.  Don't worry, the library is here to help!

Whether writing your reference list by hand or proofreading a bibliography, you will definitely need to have the APA rules on hand.  Check out the resources below:

  • If you find the Publication Manual confusing or scary (or both), try the APA Online Tutorial.  This video guide is clear and easy to watch.  It gives a thorough overview of how to format your paper and cite your sources.
  • For those trickier scenarios (how do I cite my class notes?  how do I cite a blog post?), try searching the APA Style Blog.  This is another official APA site, so it is an authoritative source.