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Communication: Using Databases


The link below will take you to the Libraries' guide to helping you get started with library research. For more assistance, please contact your subject librarian.

Search terms, also commonly called keywords, are the words that you enter into the database search boxes to find articles on your topic. They represent the main concepts of your research topic. Without the right keywords, you may have difficulty finding relevant articles.

Selecting keywords is a multi-step process:

  • Identify the main concepts of your topic
  • Look online or in reference sources such as encyclopedias to come up with words describing your topic
  • Brainstorm synonyms and antonyms that could also be used to describe your topic
  • Spell out abbreviations
  • Look in academic articles to see what terms researchers use
  • Use terms from class/texts (such as "discourse analysis")
  • Keep track of successful search terms to use in different databases

Common Keywords in Communication: These links list possible keywords for each topic area below. These suggested keywords are just to get you started.

  • Phrase Searching: Quotation marks allow you to search a phrase: "media bias." Without quotes, the database will find articles that have both "media" and "bias" in them, but not necessarily in that order. So the search may still bring up relevant articles, but will include some that are not.
  • Truncation: putting a star (*) instead of a suffix/ending to a word allows searching of many forms of a word: child* (searches child, children, childish, childhood.) Race* (searches race, races, but may miss "acial.) Watch out for things like soc* for society as too many words can be returned.

Scholarly peer review (or "refereeing") is a process of having experts in a field evaluate a research paper or book for quality prior to publication. The opinion of the experts (so the "peers" of the author of the paper or book) helps the editors of an academic journal or publisher decide if the work is good enough (or original enough, done with the best methodology, etc.) to publish. The reviewers also usually give recommendations on how the author can improve their work. Peer review is meant to assure that quality research is published.

How peer review is conducted:

  1. The author submits their work to the editor of a journal/scholarly publisher who decides if the article topic fits their scope for publishing. If it fits, they forward the article to expert peer reviewers in that field for review.
  2. The reviewers evaluate the quality, accuracy, methodology, and validity of the manuscript.
  3. Reviewers suggest changes and recommend if the manuscript should be published or not.

How to Identify Peer Reviewed Resources

  • Limit searches to "Peer Reviewed" items:
    • OneSearch (the main library search bar) allows you to filter results to "peer reviewed" items.
    • Many databases also allow you to do this; for example, Academic Search Premier has this feature on the initial search screen - click on the pertinent box to limit the search.
    • In some databases you may have to go to an “advanced” or “expert” search screen to do this. Some databases do not have this filter option.Peer-reviewed articles and publications will generally be from reputable journals or publishers. Do an internet search to find out more about the publisher and author. Peer-reviewed scholarly articles will have a specific format: look for an abstract, introduction, literature review, methods section, discussion, conclusion and bibliography. Generally, they will not have illustrations or be in "popular" publications for the general public.
  • The database (enter this name in the library main search bar) can be used to determine if a journal is indicated peer-reviewed.
    • Type in the exact title of the journal including any initial A, AN, or THE in the title.
    • If your journal title IS displayed, check to see if the journal is refereed (peer reviewed) by looking at the column on the left with the little striped referee shirt symbol. If that symbol is present, that journal is peer reviewed.
  • Examine the journal itself for a declaration of peer-review. You can look on the main website for the journal or on the "masthead" (imprint) of the publication, which is a section at the beginning (or maybe end) of an individual issue that names the editors and affiliated staff.
    • In electronic journals, you will often find a link to "journal homepage" from any article you open.
    • You may need to search the homepage to find their peer review policy, which should include their process for conducting peer review.