CMNS 210: Finding news or popular articles on communications technology prior to 1996

This guide is designed to help you to find articles in newspapers or popular magazines that relate to the emergence of your selected communication or media technology.

Contact info

If you need help, please contact Sylvia Roberts, Liaison Librarian for Communication & Contemporary Arts at 778.782.3681 or or Ask a librarian.

During the Fall 2020 term, I'll be on Zoom for office hours, Thursday mornings from 10am to noon: Please drop by if you'd like to talk about your research project.

If this time doesn't work for you, send me an email and we'll find another time that works.

PPT slides Oct 5, 2020

Finding articles in newspapers and popular magazines

News indexes with full text content

  • Canadian Newsstream
    Full text access to major Canadian daily newspapers, as well as small market newspapers and weeklies published in Canada.  Date coverage varies by title, with most starting in the mid-1980s.

  • Factiva
    Newspapers, newswires, industry publications, websites, and company reports from global sources of information, usually beginning in the 1970s or later.
    Detailed search guide for Factiva

  • Nexis Uni
    International news coverage, business news, legal cases and law reports from early 1970's to present. Content is strongly American with significant coverage of Canadian and international topics. 
    Detailed search guide for Nexis Uni

  • Historical Newspapers  
    Searches full page and article images from the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post from the mid to late 19th century with embargoes on the most recent 3-8 years of newspaper issues.
    Detailed search guide
  • Gale NewsVault 
    Cross-searches historical archives for the EconomistFinancial TimesTimes of London, Illustrated London News and other major British and American news sources with coverage back to the late 19th and early 20th century.
    Coverage of specific newspapers
    Detailed search options

Full text newspaper and news magazine databases

If you are interested in searching a specific newspaper or popular magazine, you can check to see if it's available at SFU Library by searching for its title in the A-Z Journals list.  The Library catalogue record will show whether we have issues of a title in digital, print or microform. 

Below are some of the specific newspapers and news magazines for which we have deep digital archives.

​​​​​​​NOTE: The central branch of Vancouver Public Library, may have old issues of popular magazines that you can access and copy, if SFU doesn't have digital, print or microfilm access.

Details on finding specific newspapers or popular journals at SFU Library can be found in the Locating journals, magazines and newspapers research guide.

Search strategies

Search terms

Begin by identifying terms that represent your search concepts.

One way to improve your search results is to consider variations in the way your technology may be described and use each of these terms in your search.

Both brand names and generic terms may be used in articles that discuss your technology.  You may also include  the name of the inventor or the corporation associated with the development or popularization of the technology.

Consider that names for technologies can vary over time as products develop and new applications emerge. For example, what "hand held computers" might refer to laptops or to personal digital assistants in the past, whereas now it often means tablet computers.  

Truncation / wildcards

When you want to search all variations of a specific word, using a truncation symbol can be useful.  The most widely used truncation symbol is the asterisk * used at the end of a root word when you want the database search to find records with all the varient endings.

stroboscop* (finds stroboscope, stroboscopy]

Wildcard symbols operate in a similar way but can substitute for single or multiple characters at the end or in the middle of a search term.  Each database uses their own conventions so use the Help function to discover the specifics.

Boolean operators

While you can use a natural language search with the news databases, most of the database search operations are based on an older search technology, called Boolean logic.  This search system uses operators, such as AND or OR, to tell the search engine how to meaningfully combine your search terms to get what you want.  

Use OR to connect related search terms in a search box so that the database finds articles with any of the terms.

"personal digital assistants" OR "palm pilot" OR PDA

The quotation marks around the search terms tells the database to search for these words as a phrase, with these words together, as a phrase.

Consider adding additional concepts to focus your search results. For example, if you want to investigate the role of commercial radio broadcasting in promoting the consumption of sports, you'd want to include both sports and radio broadcasting in your search. 

Use AND to connect more than one concept, when you want both terms to be in each of your results. 

sports AND radio

If you have multiple search concepts and several search terms for each, you can use the AND / OR operators together, putting terms for different search concepts in separate search boxes.

"cell phones" OR "mobile phones" OR "cellular telephones" 
society OR family OR children

Proximity operators

A proximity operator is a character or word used to narrow search engine results by limiting them to those that have query keywords placed within a specific number of words (or in the same paragraph) in the content.  Unlike a phrase search which looks for the search terms together in the order that you enter them, a proximity (near) search gets results for terms which appear in close to one another within the resulting page hit.  This can be useful for combining brand names with technology or for names.

Note that the following examples are Factiva proximity operators (full list of Factiva operators).

recordings n/3 magnetic (finds recordings within 3 words of magnetic, e.g magnetic tape recordings, magnetic recordings, recordings on magnetic tape]
atari same video [finds atari in the same paragraph as video)

Results limiters

Be sure to use the date limiter function in databases, either before or after the search, to make sure that the publication dates of the articles are prior to 1996.  If you are searching for a technology that is still being used, you may want to set some date parameters to limit your results to a time period when the technology was emerging or undergoing significant changes in how it was used. 

Media coverage may not begin immediately after the invention of the technology but, rather, when the technology becomes more popular, affordable or widely adapted.

You may need to do some extra research to find the appropriate date range.

You can also limit your results by language, subject, length of the article (number of words) and other useful parameters, depending on the database.  Look at the help pages for each database to find out what's possible or Ask a Librarian.

Section searching

Searching full text news databases for substantial articles on your topic or articles that have a particular focus (sports, entertainment, lifestyle) can be helped by choosing a specific section of the newspaper.  News database records usually organize and tag the content to reflect the original structure and placement of the article.

If you're looking for an article that's describing the significance of an emerging technology, it might be useful to limit your results to articles that appear on the front page of the newspaper. 

If you were looking for a specific application of a technology, it might make sense to limit your search to the sections read by those who would be interested in that application, for example, looking at the sports section for articles on the use of stroboscopic photography in sports reporting.

This can be a useful way to limit your search results if your initial results are not specific enough.