Sometimes, getting started on a major project can be a significant hurtle.  The various paths you can take may feel overwhelming.  You’ll be working on your project all semester, so you need to make sure it is a topic you will enjoy.  And, your research project will need to be unique and thoughtful.

As you consider different topics for your project, use the E-Reference Resources in Communication to gather background information and find out more about that area of study.

For example, if you are considering a study of college students and mobile devices, take a look at the Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies.  Or, perhaps you are interested in studying Body Image in Girls and Young Women, which can be found in the Encyclopedia of Children, Adolescents and the Media.

E-Reference Resources can also be very useful when developing your research methodologies, or if you come across unknown terms or ideas as you perform your research.  For help with research methodologies, check out the Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics, the Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods, or the Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods.

If you plan on performing a survey, the Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods will be of use to you.

Finding 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 Communication 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.

 Reference Works


Books are a good source for general information because they tend to take a broad view of the topic at hand. Scholarly journal articles are narrowly focused on one area of a topic.

For example, begin with this search of "Communication in Organizations" in the Library Catalog. Add your own search terms or click the links on the right to narrow the search to better fit your topic.

If you find a promising book, review the table of contents and index to determine its relevance to your own research. Then begin by reading the chapters you think will be most valuable.

 Search for Books


Articles from scholarly and trade journals are a reliable source of information. They normally focus on a single narrow topic. Use journal articles to back up claims and arguments you make in your own paper. Find articles by searching relevant article databases.

For more information on different types of journals (scholarly, trade, and popular), see the Tell If It's a Scholarly Journal guide. For this project, you may find that trade or popular journals have interesting anecdotal information for your projects, while scholarly journal articles will have research to support the arguments of your paper.

 Search for Articles

These search engines will help you identify articles on your research topic. Enter one search term on each line, then use the filters to limit by date range and to focus on subjects that are relevant to your research question.

  Communication & Mass Media Complete (EBSCO)

  Film & Television Literature Index (EBSCO)

  Project Muse

  Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

  ComAbstracts (CIOS)

  Communication Abstracts (EBSCO)



Checking an article’s reference list is a great way of searching the past for related research, but how can you find out what impact that article had on future research?  The Social Sciences Citation Index allows you to do just that.

Choose the Cited Reference Search to search for the author and journal title of an article you have found to be useful.  Search to see if other scholars have cited that article since its publication. 

Very recent articles will not have been cited yet.  Because of the great volume of annual publications, many articles are rarely cited.  Also, works may have been cited by research not indexed in SSCI.


The Library subscribes to a variety of newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post,  and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Access to the text of many newspapers is available through Proquest Newspapers and Lexis Nexis Academic.

See also this recent Library Blog post about Fetching Newspapers.


Articles and books that are not owned by the library can be easily borrowed through our interlibrary loan systemILLiad is best for requesting articles, and EZBorrow is the preferred method for requesting books that are available in that system.