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COMM 2400 Discourse, Culture, and Identities (Tate): How to do library research

Library Research

Here are some basic steps to follow for doing research. For more assistance, please see the Library's guide to Research Strategies or contact your librarian.

  1. Identify your topic. Search online for your topic to see what is "out there." This gives you information on what is currently known about your topic and who is researching it. Wikipedia and other websites are fine for this.
  2. Develop search terms or "keywords." Make a list of words to describe your topic.Include synonyms and alternate terms.
    1. For example, if you are interested in how concussions affect athletes, you might start listing terms for "concussion," which could include "traumatic brain injury" or just "brain injury" or "brain swelling" or "cerebral edema."
  3. Do an Initial search. I like to start on OneSearch, the search bar on the library main website. Try combinations of your search terms. OneSearch is also great to type in the name of a database or article or author to pull up things you need fast.
  4. Select a database to search. Some databases are for general (such as Academic Search Premier) and others are more specific to a subject area (like Communication and Mass Media Complete.) If you go to the library's research guides, you can see a list of the best databases to search for different subject areas.There are databases listed for Communication in this course guide and in the general Communication Guide. Sometimes it is best to start with a more general database as the more specific ones will only search a limited number of journals and thus limit your results (especially in a very multidisciplinary subject such as communication.)
  5. Databases are not Google.
    1. You need search terms (keywords) to search for articles on a given topic. Except in Google Scholar, natural language (sentences) will not work.
    2. Use separate rows (search boxes) for your different terms when possible. If this is not possible, put AND between terms.
    3. Use quotation marks around terms you want to keep together in a specific order.
      1. "concussion" AND "long-term effects"
    4. Use the filters, usually located on the left side of the page, to limit results.
    5. You can use an asterisk (*) to search many variables of a word, so for example child* would bring up child, children, childhood and all similar words. So this can be good and bad...if it expands your search too much, search the terms you are interested in individually. Beware words like society..."soc*" could bring up too many different words (society, social, socialite, socialism, socket, etc.)
    6. Use Google Scholar! It is totally fine. It has some issues (your search history influences the search algorithm, for example, and you can't utilize as many filters or control the search as well as in other databases, but it is a great tool!) One recommendation: use Google Scholar through the library website (search in OneSearch for it!) so you can get access to articles CU Boulder pays for.

Summer 2021: Libraries' Services

We're here to support both research and relaxation - check out our Summer Guide to the Libraries: Student Edition.

Communication Librarian

Elizabeth Novosel's picture
Elizabeth Novosel