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Journalism - Resources for Journalism Graduate Students

Tips and Techniques for Effective Database Research

How do you find an article if you have a citation or if the library subscribes to a specific journal?

  • From the Journalism Library Web site: 
  • Under "Quick Links" (vertical navigation menu on the left), choose the “Find a Specific Article/Journal” link
  • Type in the journal title from the citation.
  • Choose the “Find it at MU” button
  • If the library subscribes to the journal or a database containing the journal, you will be presented with a list of choices that might include holdings information (range of dates available, if it is available in print or microform).
  • Based on the date listed in the citation, choose the most appropriate link to locate the journal.
  • If you choose an online database, you may filter by date or search within the publication.
  • If the journal is not available online, but the library has print copies, choose the "Check MERLIN for paper copies" link.  You will be taken to the online catalog where you can locate the "call number" and locate it in the library stacks.
  • If MU Libraries does not subscribe to the print or online journal, or doesn't own the volume and issue that you need, you may request it through Interlibrary loan (ILL).  A link to the scanned article will be sent to you from ILL fairly quickly, depending on its availability.

How do find out if a journal is "scholarly," "peer reviewed" or "refereed"?

  • The journal title may include the word "Journal" or perhaps the word "Research." 
  • The author's academic credentials/affiliation will typically be listed at the beginning of the article.
  • The article will typically include an abstract (summary) at the beginning of the article.
  • The article will describe an original study (experiment) or will provide a literature review that evaluates research by other scholars.
  • The article's list of cited references will be provided at the end of the article. This list is often labeled with the terms "References" or "Works Cited."
  • The article is usually quite long.

Once you have decided on a research topic:

  • Work from the general to the specific
  • Create a list of concept terms that you want to search.
  • Translate your topic into the subject language of the databases and catalogs you use--check your topic words against a thesaurus or subject heading list.
  • Take advantage of subject headings and descriptors found by exploiting the database thesaurus or subject guide.  Using subject specific "controlled language" will add precision to your search
  • Exploit bibliographies.  These may lead you to other important resources.
  • Record what you find and where you found it--- write out a complete citation for each source you find; you may need it again later. You can use a program like EndNote or Zotero to help with this. 

What is the most appropriate place to begin research on a topic?

How can you create quality search strings to get the most out of the databases?

  • Most databases will allow you to create a “search history.”
  • Create a list of quality concept search terms. 
  • Search each concept individually and then use Boolean Logic operators to combine them.
  • "OR" between concept terms, broadens your search
    • Examples:  journalist OR reporter OR photographer OR correspondent = S1 (the first set of combined terms)
    • Examples:  post traumatic stress OR PTSD OR Trauma = S2 ( the second set of combined terms)
  • "AND" between concept terms, narrows your search
    • Examples:  S1 AND S2 yields articles containing information about more than one type of journalist and trauma which might include PTSD
  • "NOT" between search terms means "search for the first term, but not the second."
    • Example:  Mexico NOT New Mexico

How can I keep track of all these resources? 

  • Use a bibliographic manager like Endnote or Zotero.
  • Many databases provide server space for you to save your searches.
  • Save your searches and results so that you can revisit them or share them.

How can I make sure that I don’t miss reading any new articles on my topic?

  • Most databases will provide the opportunity to create alerts.
  • Use your saved searches to create alerts to send any new articles on your topic to you either via email or rss.

Once you exhausted MU Libraries’ databases, try Google Scholar

  • Use the advanced search feature and filter by date and any other measure that can help focus your search.

What other resources should I consider using?

Research Tips

  • Develop a research topic –one that is interesting to you, captures your attention and stimulates your curiosity.
  • Read and explore background information. Perform a literature review.
  • Build an annotated bibliography using Endnote, Reference Manager, Zotero or other bibliographic tool.
  • Focus the scope of the research based on information that is available, research for which there is an information gap, but information that is accessible based on time and or travel restraints.
    • When is this paper/project due?
    • Is information available on campus or through campus resources?
    • Will you have to travel to access this information?
    • Who is the audience for this research?
    • How exhaustive should the research be? Class paper? Publishable paper/article? Thesis? Dissertation?
  • Identify core resources required to begin researching. Understand the scope and content of each resource.
    • Journals
    • Bibliographies
    • Databases
      • Subject specific/scholarly
      • Alternative resources
    • Archival material/ primary sources
    • Dissertations/Theses/Journalism Master’s Projects
    • Identify additional types of resources that might provide supporting information.
      • Biographies
      • Dictionaries
      • Style Guides
      • News
      • Polls
      • Transcripts
      • Surveys
      • Government documents
      • Statistics
      • Original research
  • Identify appropriate research methodologies
    • Browse/scan books, journal articles, databases, archival research
    • Interviews, surveys, etc. (understand IRB policies)
  • Evaluate access and manage time
    • Free or lower cost access when information is not readily accessible
      • Interlibrary loan
      • Telephone or email interview rather than traveling to a location for an interview.
      • Local rather than distant archives
      • Government records (government depository or online resources)
      • Translator necessary?
    • Create a schedule of when research/field work needs to be completed, review/bibliography to be completed, journal submission deadlines, etc. based on deadlines.
    • Construct and implement effectively designed search strategies.
      • Exploit database thesauri
      • Understand controlled vocabulary
      • Understand and use Boolean logic effectively
      • Apply search strategies in various information retrieval systems.
      • Implement and use database/article alert systems
    • Assesses quantity, quality and relevance of search results.
    • Examine and compare information from various sources, evaluating reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, point-of-view and bias.
    • Recognize cultural, physical, or other context within which information was created and understand the impact of context on interpreting information.
    • Summarize and synthesize information.
    • Draw conclusions based upon information gathered.
    • Test hypotheses/theories with discipline-appropriate techniques.
    • Validate your understanding and interpretation of information through dialogue with other graduate students, subject area experts and professionals.
    • Organize the content in a manner that supports the purposes and format of the paper/thesis/article; analyze the content within the framework of the discipline.
    • Effectively incorporate data, images, etc. as appropriate.
    • Communicate clearly, accurately citing resources, demonstrating an understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of copyrighted material.
    • Finish your research project by deadline.

    Some content based on: Information Literacy Competency Standards for Journalism Students and Professionals.