A first look at communication theory or a topic such as journalism is just the beginning when doing research. The next step is to narrow your choice of topic to an area of focus. Reference sites on the Web will help you to review the many possibilities for your research and then delve deep into the subject you choose.
Get the big picture
A great way to get an overview of your topic is to visit Questia, the world’s largest online library where you can read full-text articles and books on hundreds of subjects. Within the topic of communication you’ll find such categories as:
- Legal and ethical issues in journalism
- Written language
You can continue to drill down by category and gain a focus that will frame your approach and make research and writing easier. For example, in the category of legal and ethical issues in journalism you will find several sub-categories including the fairness doctrine. Further exploration will present you with books and articles such as The First Amendment under Siege: The Politics of Broadcast Regulation by Richard E. Labunski.
You’ll be able to read a sample from the book including this excerpt from the Introduction, “The special position that the First Amendment is granted in our system is a recognition of the paramount importance of the free exchange of ideas to self-government. Freedom of speech and press provisions of the First Amendment are designed to prevent interference with the exchange of information if citizens are to make intelligent decisions when choosing public officials and shaping policy.”
Find your resources at school
If you’re a student or teacher, be sure to check with your school librarian for a list of available resources. Many libraries subscribe to research databases such as EBSCO and LexisNexis where you can search for and read articles from a multitude of sources.
You may also find that your school hosts a web page with a list of online resources such as one from the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of Communication Studies. Its list of resources related to communication studies includes links to sites on advertising, digital media, and visual communication.
On the Web
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism creates its annual State of the News Media report, which in 2011 included a survey on how people use mobile technology to get local news.
A great resource for those interested in journalism is JournalistResource.org where resources abound for journalists, instructors and students. If you’re interested in research, you may want to read John Wihbey’s interview of Alison Head in his January 27, 2012 post titled, “Research chat: Information scientist Alison Head on student habits.” Head, a lead researcher of the University of Washington’s Project Information Literacy examines how students seek information.
“Yet educators may be surprised to learn that the most difficult part of course-related research is the beginning of the process, especially framing a research problem. When we surveyed more [than] 8,300 students at 25 U.S. institutions in 2010, more than 80% of respondents reported they had the most difficulty getting started on course-related research assignments. Another 66% could not define a research topic or narrow it,” Head explained.
College students who are preparing for a career in communications or journalism would do well to join a professional association such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s). Students can usually join such organizations at a discount rate and take advantage of numerous resources as well as the chance to meet and make connections with those who are established in the industry.
The 4A’s site hosts three blogs, one of which, the Inkblot is, “Less of a blog and more of a journal of ideas and observations, this is a place where industry professionals can share their thoughts on the state of the industry, where consumers can learn more about the creators of the products, brands, and campaigns they interact with every day, where advertising executives can mete out their knowledge and expertise, and where clients can visit to gain perspective on the effectiveness of campaigns.”