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COM 201

This guide will help students in Professor Smith's COM 201 class with their research.

Search tips for library databases

Searching the Theory

Simply search the theory name as a keyword.

Put compound theory names in quotation marks, "cognitive dissonance"

HINT: you often get better hits if you leave the word “Theory” out of the phrase.

Searching the theorist:

A theorist is an author…so if you search the person’s name AS an author, you should get almost everything they have written.

To get the most/best hits in the database,

  1. Type in the name backwards, last name first

  2. Change “Select a Field” window to “Author”

  3. Search

Backward Reference Searching

  • Also known as chain searching, involves identifying and examining the references or works cited in an article.  It is one way to learn about the development of knowledge on a topic. A researcher will do this in order to study the origins and development of a theory, construct, or model of interest. Another reason to backward reference search is to identify experts, institutions or organizations that specialize in a topic of research.

  • A second-level backward reference search is when a researcher examines sources cited by the references used in an initial article. This allows a researcher to identify inconsistencies in the literature.

Backward Author Searching

  • The works of an author can be examined by doing a backward reference search.  This allows a researcher to review an author's previous work and publications, and also the development of the author's research.

Forward Reference Searching

  • is when a researcher identifies articles that cite a particular article or work after it had been published.  This type of search focuses on the publications created after an initial original article or research publication. 

  • Forward reference searching helps a researcher expand their knowledge on a topic by locating follow-up studies.  A researcher then can identify new findings and developments.

Forward Author Searching

  • Forward reference searching can also be done to find a particular author and his or her works.  This allows a researcher to review an author's later or more current works, and also examine new developments.

Overall Search Hints

  • Limit to academic journals, scholarly journals, peer-reviewed journals after the search. That’s the easiest way.

    • For example: PsycINFO searches more than journals. The peer-reviewed box will limit to journals only. Watch the length! Anything under 5 pages is probably a review, editorial, etc. …not research.

  • Remember: Databases don’t answer questions like Google. Use keywords.

  • Use quotation marks to identify compound subjects "cognitive dissonance"

  • The asterisk * is a truncation tool that allows you to search for multiple versions of the same word. Searching (communic* gets communicate, communication, communicator, communicates, communicators)

  • Use Boolean Operators to combine search terms. "interpersonal communication" OR "interpersonal relations"

  • Use Subject searches to find more relevant articles

    • "cognitive dissonance" as a SUBJECT

    • "social penetration" as a SUBJECT