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Mass Communication and Journalism

A guide to library resources in Mass Communication and Journalism

Brainstorming

As with any research project, the first step is generally to select your topic. Reference materials (encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, etc. . .) can be a great way to get started. These resources offer overviews of thousands of topics and will help you launch into your search for the scholarly resources that you will need to use to support your research. On this page you will find some selections to get you started.

When brainstorming, it can also be helpful to browse popular, non-scholarly resources in order to understand the status of general discourse on your topic and explore diverse viewpoints while developing thesis statement that can be supported with scholarly resources.

Getting Started

  • Read your assignment carefully! 
    • Take note of important elements such as the due date, the format, the length, the type of materials you are expected to use, and any other specific requirements.
    • Break down the assignment into elements such as the following:
      • Who or what are you researching?
      • Are you arguing a specific point of view or analyzing a specific topic?
      • What do you know about the topic already?
  • Start with brainstorming and background research:
    • Explore the assigned topic using broad, informational resources such as encyclopedias and reference databases that will help you understand the context of the topic.
    • While you are exploring the topic, look for common terms, themes, and ideas.
    • Use the outline of the assignment and your background research to brainstorm topics and thesis statements.
  • Support your topic/thesis statement with high-quality resources that meet the requirements of your assignment:
    • Scholarly materials (also known as peer-reviewed materials) are often required for academic research projects. This is because these resources must be written by experts in the fields, published in reputable journals, reviewed by other experts, and must be based on quality work.

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Britannica Academic

Running a basic search in Britannica Academic is similar to searching in Google. You can use general keywords and phrases in your search and Britannica Academic will return results that include some or all of your keywords. By default, the search engine will look for articles, but you can change that by clicking the radial button below the search box to choose videos, primary sources, and journals/periodicals.

Britannica Academic database search box

 

Clicking the "Advanced Search" button below the search box opens up additional options to control what kinds of results your search returns.

Britannica Academic database search box with Advanced Search option boxes including: "with all the words", "with the exact phrase", "with any of these words", "without these words", and "with these words near each other"

Use the provided Advanced Search boxes to refine your search (note that when you begin to enter text in one field the system will limit the other fields that are available to add to the search):

  • With all the words:
    • This will only return results that have all of the words listed in the search box.
    • This is the equivalent of inserting the Boolean operator AND between each term.
  • With the exact phrase:
    • This will only return results the the exact phrase that is entered in the box.
    • This kind of search works well for differentiating phrases that could otherwise lead to unwanted results. For example, entering Norfolk State University in this field will only return results that include the exact phrase "Norfolk State University". If the same search was performed not as a phrase in the basic keyword search, the results would include items with results for each word: Norfolk, State, and University.
    • This is the equivalent of using " " in most search engines.
  • With any of these words:
    • This will return results for any of the words entered in the box.
    • This is the equivalent of inserting the Boolean operator OR between each term.
  • Without these words:
    • This will exclude items that include the words entered in this search box.
    • This kind of exclusion can be helpful for differentiation. For example, if you are trying to research The Chrysler Museum and want to avoid articles about Chrysler automobiles, you could enter "automobile" in this search box.
    • Use caution with exclusion as this type of search does not differentiate between substantive and incidental inclusions of search terms. In the example of The Chrysler Museum and Chrysler automobiles, if the word "automobile" is excluded, no results will show up in the search results that include the word automobile. This could lead to the exclusion of relevant articles, such as one that includes a photograph with a caption that says "automobile parked in front of the Chrysler Museum".
    • This is the equivalent of entering the Boolean operator NOT before the search term.
  • With these words near each other:
    • This search will only return results that occur within a few words of each other. 
    • This kind of proximity search is very helpful for locating resources where two words need to be related to each other or found near each other, but are not part of an easily defined phrase.
    • This is the equivalent of W# or N# in many database search boxes.

Credo Reference

Running a basic search in Credo Reference is similar to searching in Google. You can use general keywords and phrases in your search and Credo Reference will return results that include some or all of your keywords.

Credo reference landing page and basic search.

 

Clicking the "Advanced Search" button below the search box opens up additional options to control what kinds of results your search returns.

Credo Reference Advanced Search page.

Use the provided Advanced Search boxes to refine your search based on the prompts.

In addition, the Advanced Search box includes drop-down menus that will allow you to limit Subjects, Titles, Publication Dates, and Features by checking the appropriate box.

Credo Reference supplies a visual related topics map that can be a great way to explore your topic and see connections that can further your research. Click the links in the map to jump to articles on that topic and generate a new visual topic map.

Credo Reference search for "Octavia E. Butler" including visual topic map.

Click the Hugo Award and a new series of search results will load:

Credo Reference search with visual topic map for "Hugo Award".

Credo Reference is equipped with a Research Quick Tips tool for help with research, searching, and topic selection to help you make the most of the database. To access the Research Quick Tips area, click on the three-lined "hamburger" menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose "Research Quick Tips":

Credo Reference menu showing Research Quick Tips selection.

The Research Quick Tips menu has several helpful guides:

Research Quick Tips landing page.

Oxford Reference Premium

Running a basic search in Oxford Reference Premium is similar to searching in Google. You can use general keywords and phrases in your search and Britannica Academic will return results that include some or all of your keywords.

Oxford Reference Premium landing page.

 

On the search results page, Oxford Reference Premium offers a series of post-search filtering options on the left side of the page under the heading "Narrow Your Choices":

Oxford Reference Premium results page with "Narrow Your Choices" menu.

By default, Oxford Reference Premium shows all content in the results, which includes articles that are not available in full-text. Item availability is indicated to the right of the result with a green open lock Green open lock icon., the word Free in a green oval Free in a green oval icon., or a red closed lock Closed red lock icon..

To limit the results list to items that are available in full-text, check the "Unlocked" and "Free" boxes under the heading "By Availability" in the left side menu and click submit:

Oxford Reference Premium lock icons.

 

Oxford Reference Premium has a help page with additional tips for searching and making the most of the database. To access the help page, click "Help" at the bottom of any page in the database:

Help page.