Communication Studies: Research Methods

Course #: CS235A

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1. Formulating research questions

For your assignment, you need to find:

  • 5 refereed journal articles
  • Some articles should refer to quantitative and/or qualitative data or studies
  • Review articles that help you in assessing the current state of knowledge, highlight methodological approaches and identify knowledge gaps

2. To find scholarly, peer-reviewed articles

3. Using advanced database research techniques

  • Break your research question down into specific concepts and subject terms; don't enter a question directly into a database
    • E.g., don't search for "Fake news" and the culture of politics on social media
    • Instead, look for specific terms and link them together, e.g. "fake news" AND politic* AND "social media"
    • Use " " to search an exact phrase
    • Use a * at the end of a word to search for all letter combinations (wildcard)
    • The “AND” operator indicates the term must be included in our search
    • Use the database Subject Thesaurus or Subject area in the results to find additional terms
    • Scan the abstracts for related subject headings (e.g. Fake News = False News in EBSCO)
    • Add related terms using “OR” e.g. "Fake news" OR "False news" - searches for both phrases
  • Change the default sort of results from "Newest" to "Relevance"
  • Don't limit results only to "Full Text" in EBSCO; you'll miss a large set of full-text articles that can be accessed
  • If you find you're getting "0" results, try broadening your search by selecting the "All Text" field or "Full Text" field to search on
  • the Geographic Terms (GE) field in EBSCO searches for research in a particular area
  • Publication Name (SO) in EBSCO searches for particular journals
  • To ensure you don't retrieve book reviews, make sure you select "academic journals" in EBSCO under source type, or "article" in ProQuest, for ex.

Finding sources in Communications Studies (or related disciplines)

  • You can add/remove databases to search depending on the discipline you are interested in
  • In EBSCO, on the main search page, click the "Choose Databases" option and select additional databases that are appropriate, e.g. Communication & Mass Media Complete (ProQuest also has a similar feature)
  • You may also need to search in other discipline specific databases, found on the Databases page, listed by discipline

4. Finding articles that are qualitative/quantitative studies

  • search on: "qualitative" in one search box, and: study OR research OR method* in the second search field box
  • look for specific subject headings in the database to specify the search, e.g. "qualitative research"

5. Assessing the current state of knowledge, gaps, and methodological approaches

  • Consult a Literature Review or Introduction section of a current refereed article
  • Search for "review articles" - articles written by experts that are a review of literature in a certain area
  • Search on the following terms:"critical review" OR "critical review of the literature" OR "critical literature review" OR "integrated review" OR "review article" OR "review of the literature" OR "systematic review" OR "synthesis review" OR "thematic review"
  • To assess the current state of research, find a recent article that reviews the literature
    • Do a "cited reference" search in Google Scholar, ProQuest, and/or Web of Science
  • Search Dissertations and Theses database in ProQuest for a recent doctoral dissertation in your area - consult the Literature Review chapter

6. Citing your sources in APA