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WRIT 101 - Jean Arthur   Tags: course_guide  

Resources for Jean Arthur's WRIT 101 course.
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Exploring Your Research Question

Start your research by brainstorming terms to describe what you're looking for. Try to come up with an assortment of words or phrases that you can combine to get the best results. For instance, if you're looking for articles about the news media's influence on voting (in any country), what words might work for each of the major concepts in your research question?

Keep draft notes of the terms you come up with so you can try them out in different combinations in several library newspaper or journal databases.

Main Research Concepts     Additional Associated or Alternative Terms
News media journalism, reporter, journalist, type of media: TV, radio, newspaper, internet…
Voting politics, race, election, nomination, vote, ballot, turnout…
Influence change, power, effect, shape, fix, determine, decide, shift…
Place of interest country or location name

Using LexisNexis Academic

You can use LexisNexis Academic to find international newspaper articles on your topic.

Look at your brainstormed terms and decide how you want to begin your search.

For instance, I'm interested in finding out about media bias in relation to elections in Egypt so I might focus on the terms "media bias," "elections," and add the name of the country.

This will pull up recent articles about Egypt from international newspapers that have been indexed with the terms "media bias" and "elections." Out of the many articles in my results set, I can start to judge which ones might best answer my research question. First I look at the headline (is it on topic?), then at the publication (is it non-US?), then at the date (is it recent?), and then the word count (is it long enough to have real content -- 500+ words?). Each headline links me to the full text of the article.


Using Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete is a database of magazine and journal articles. You can limit your search to pull up only scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles right from the start.

I can explore my results list, looking for articles that are on-topic and available.


Using the "Journals by Title" list

You can also use the Library's journal list -- the list of all the magazines, journals, and newspapers that we subscribe to -- to find articles on a subject as well.

First go to the FIND catetory on the Library's home page.  Then choose the "Journals by Title" category (formerly the JournaList)


If I'm looking for an academic journal article in a certain subject area, I can browse the titles in that subject category in the JournaList.


Using the Theses & Dissertations List

You can find scholarly dissertations and theses in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.  It's easy to search and gives you the full text of many recent works written by PhD and Masters students.  These are great sources of current and comprehensive information.


Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals


Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals: A Quick Review

Journal cover   Scholarly Journals

  • Authors are experts/authorities in their fields.
  • Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.
  • Individual issues have little or no advertising.
  • Articles must go through a peer-review process (experts in the discipline evaluate each author's work before any articles are published).
  • Articles are usually reports on scholarly research.
  • Illustrations usually take the form of charts and graphs.
  • Articles use jargon of the discipline.
  • Articles are typically five or more pages in length.

Time Magazine    Popular Magazines

  • Authors are magazine staff members/regular columnists or free lance writers.
  • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies.
  • Individual issues contain numerous advertisements.
  • There is no peer review process.
  • Articles are meant to inform and entertain (thus they are also thought of as consumer publications because they are published for a wide audience).
  • Illustrations are numerous and colorful.
  • Language is geared to the general adult audience (no specialized knowledge of jargon needed).
  • Articles are typically fairly short (one or two columns to one or a few pages).


Compiled by Mary Anne Hansen and Sheila Bonnand

Course Feedback

Please take a few minutes at the end of class today to fill in this survey.  You will help us understand how well our class objectives were met today so that we can design useful sessions.  Your input will be anonymous and will NOT be tracked! Thank you.


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Jan Zauha: Reference Librarian, Professor
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Research Tips

  • You never know what you'll find, so be open to the possibilities.
  • Research is like cooking - you often have a make a huge mess to get something good at the end.
  • Don't be afraid to find all the "wrong" ways first.
  • Databases are like cars: if you can drive one car, you can pretty much drive any car. Most all databases share the same basic functions.
  • Think about other words to describe what you're looking for - if something is "red," try "magenta" or "brick."
  • You're trying to find a way in to the conversation, so if you can find one place to start from, you can go from there.
  • Keep a research log so you don't redo things you've already tried.

Get Help at the Writing Center!

The MSU Writing Center has a satellite office in the Library.  Call (406) 994-5315 to make an appointment. For more information, see their Web site linked here:


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