Top Databases

Here are the top databases in this subject area:

Searching Databases

Go to a database that covers the scholarly subject literature like Communication Abstracts.

Use main search words and combine them with AND, OR and NOT to broaden or narrow search. 

  • AND will narrow the search to include only records with both terms. 
  • OR with broaden the search to include records with either term.
  • NOT will narrow the search to exclude records with one of the terms.

Boolean Searching

Truncation:  You can use an * at the end of a word stem to broaden your search to include related terms.  For example, to search for child, children or childhood use the search term child*

Put quotes "" around words to search for a phrase.  For example, searching political development, without quotes, finds records with both the word 'political' and 'development' somewhere in the record.  Searching "political development", with quotes, only find records with the phrase "political development".


In most of these databases you can do a search for your topic in basic or advanced search by keyword to find articles, using AND, OR, or NOT to connect your terms and concepts.

  • Write out your topic in a sentence or phrase (make sure you're topic is specific enough)
  • Break it into the important concepts
  • Be sure to think of as many synonyms or alternate terms as you can(such as government, in addition to politics)
  • Connect your concepts with AND and your similar terms with OR (use not to exclude common meanings you don't want)


You can then limit your results by publication year, type of material (like only peer-reviewed articles) or other criteria (review articles).


Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Your research project will involve primary and secondary sources.

The following description from Ithaca College's excellent tutorial on primary and secondary sources outlines the differences:

Primary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

For more information on primary versus secondary articles, look at Ithaca College's tutorial or Loyola Marymount Library--Communication Guide (Primary & Secondary Sources)

How Can I Tell if It's Peer-Reviewed?

There are a couple of ways you can tell if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  • If it's online, go to the journal home page and check under About This Journal. Often the brief description of the journal will note that it is peer-reviewed or refereed or will list the Editors or Editorial Board.
  • Go to the database Ulrich's and do a Title Keyword search for the journal. If it is peer-reviewed or refereed, the title will have a little umpire shirt symbol by it.
  • BE CAREFUL! A journal can be refereed/peer-reviewed and still have non-peer reviewed articles in it. Generally if the article is an editorial, brief news item or short communication, it's not been through the full peer-review process. Databases like Web of Science will let you restrict your search only to articles (and not editorials, conference proceedings, etc).


Finding Full-Text of any Resource

To access the full-text of articles:

  • Use the Get it! Cornell links wherever you see them!
  • If you have citations for specific articles: check the Library Catalog to see if we subscribe to the journals that contain the articles. Do a Journal Title search (or a Journal Title Abbreviation search if you're not sure of the full title). The Catalog will show whether or not we have access to the electronic version and/or the print version.
  • If we don't have it, we can get it for you in a few days! Request articles via Interlibrary Loan.

If you can't find a resource contact us via Ask a Librarian Chat is 24/7!