COMM 200: Argumentation & Dialogue

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COMM 200

Research Process (aec)

Research Process

Research is a process that cannot (should not) be completed in one sitting. If you follow the steps outlined below, you should experience less frustration, anxiety and general dread, and be much happier with the end product. Librarians can help you at any step in the process, but specifically in topic development, background research, and the collection of evidence.

Once you get the assignment, you will choose your topic, and start brainstorming. Next, you will conduct some exploration or background research and take detailed notes about what you find. Using these notes, you will then focus your topic, and your brainstorming will then be about how you will start searching for your topic. Then, you will collect the information you need to support your topic. This is where you may go back to further refining your topic and collecting more background information.  Once you feel that you have enough information to start writing, then you will work on drafting your assignment. Again, you may need to collect more information if you feel that there are gaps in your paper. Once you have completed your writing, you will write your citations and bibliography. Then you will finish by evaluating the process.

One thing that I can’t stress enough, is that this process is cyclical. If you follow this process, then you may have to revise your topic, and search for new sources a few times. Don’t be discouraged if it feels like you are going in circles with your research. You can always come meet with a librarian for help with your research.


Background Information

COMM 200: Background Information

Background Research

The point of conducting background research is to learn as much as you can about your topic. When you have a thorough understanding of your topic, you will then be able to create a research question or thesis statement, which you will then support with evidence. In this stage of the research process, you are looking for general information about your topic. Keep in mind, you will not be using these sources in your bibliography/reference list because they are too general.The sources you include will be evidence to support your thesis or research question.

The best sources for background information are:

  • Encyclopedias (including Wikipedia, see disclaimer below) and other reference sources

  • Books

  • Websites, including news


Google News & Alerts

Since your topics are current events, a great source for background information will be news sources. You'll want to monitor the news about your topic because things could change throughout the semester, and you want to have the most up-to-date info. A great way to keep track is through a Google Alert, which is an email you will receive that includes any recent news stories on your topic.

Learn how to setup a Google Alert


Encyclopedias & Reference Sources

  • CQ Researcher Explores a single "hot" issue in the news in-depth each week. Topics range from social and teen issues to environment, health, education and science and technology.

  • Wikipedia A word about WIkipedia... I love Wikipedia for background information. It is similar to print encyclopedias, in that you will find general, background information about your topic. However, you should NEVER, EVER, EVER, put a Wikipedia entry in your bibliography/reference page. Not only because it is not as credible as print encyclopedias, but it is too general to include in a bibliograpy. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me and we can chat more about it.



Books can be very useful in painting the big picture of your issue. Try a few keywords searches to just find one or two items. Once you find them in the stacks, look around that section for more.

location availability # of books
Books in the Library immediate 250,000
Books available online immediate 20,000

Other Options

location availability # of books
Circuit 1-3 day delivery * 3,000,000
Melvyl 5-10 day delivery ** 23,000,000
WorldCat 5-10 day delivery ** 52,000,000

Databases for News

Current News & Newspapers

Use these databases to search across newspapers and news magazines. To access full-text of the article, look for the GET-IT Button.

Database Full Text Coverage Scholarly
ProQuest - News & Newspapers

Search among ProQuest’s News & Newspapers databases

Report Problems
Some full-text; plus links to full-text via Get-It 1985 to current None

Covers news and business information, including Dow Jones and Reuters newswires and The Wall Street Journal, plus more than 8,000 other sources providing current news.

Report Problems
Full-text 1975 to current Some
Academic Search Premier

This scholarly collection offers information in nearly every area of academic study including: computer sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, ethnic studies, and many more.

Report Problems
Some full-text; plus links to full-text via Get-It 1975 to current Most

An important index to political, economic, and social issues in current debate.

Report Problems
Links to full-text via Get-It 1972 to current All
Ethnic NewsWatch

Full-text ethnic newspapers, searchable in English or Spanish.

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Some full-text; plus links to full-text via Get-It 1992 to current None

GenderWatch contains publications which focus on how gender impacts a broad spectrum of subject areas. GenderWatch is a repository of an important historical perspective on the evolution of the women’s movement and the changes in gender roles.

Report Problems
Full-text 1970 to current All
Database Full Text Coverage Scholarly
Los Angeles Times (Historical)

Archival issues and articles beginning with 1881. Issues published during the past twenty-four years are not available in this database. Check ProQuest or Factiva databases for the material not held in this collection.

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Full-text Archive None
New York Times (Historical Collection)

The New York Times Historical Collection provides full page and article images including the NY Daily Times (1851-1857). The most recent four years not included in this historical collection can be searched through ProQuest Direct, LexisNexis or Factiva.

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Full-text Archive None
African American Newspapers, 1827-1998

Newspapers digitized from 37 states chronicling African American experiences and influence in a variety of events from the early 19th through late 20th centuries.

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Full-text 1827 to 1998 None
Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980

Spanish and English language newspapers offering news, advertisements, opinion and more from across the nation reflecting contemporary thought and activity.

Report Problems
Full-text 1808 to 1980 None

APA Citation

APA Citation (aes)

Why cite?

  • To give credit where credit is due;
  • So your reader (professor) can get the source that you mentioned in your assignment;
  • To add credibility to your research - shows you did the work;
  • Avoid plagiarism.

Learn more about writing citations and avoiding plagiarism by visiting these websites:

APA Style Guides


How to find an article's DOI (Digital Object Identifier)


Need Help?

Allison Carr

Academic Transitions Librarian
Allison Carr, Academic Transitions Librarian
Office Location: 
KEL 3425

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