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 how the media influenced recent elections in Nicaragua so I might focus on the terms "media," "election," and add the name of the country. I may also add in something like "influence" but if the media played a big part in the elections I may not need to.
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.
For example, #3 in the list below looks pretty good, but can I be sure that it's really from a foreign newspaper? Who publishes the International Herald Tribune? How do I find out?
Using Academic Search Complete
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
Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals
Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals: A Quick Review
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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: