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CMNS 431 - News Research and Analysis (Bob Hackett)

This guide is an introduction to finding news stories for a textual and content analysis of coverage of the intersection between climate change and employment in Canadian traditional and alternative media.

If you would like to talk to someone about your specific research question, Ask a Librarian OR contact Sylvia Roberts Liaison Librarian for Communication.

Contact info

If you need help, please contact Sylvia Roberts, Liaison Librarian for Communication & Contemporary Arts at SFU Vancouver: 778.782.5043 (main) SFU Burnaby: 778.782.3681 or or Ask a librarian.


Background information

Books on 3 day reserve, recommended by Dr. Hackett:

Gina Bailey and R. Hackett, Newswatchers guide to content analysis
John E. Richardson, Analysing Newspapers: Approaches from critical discourse analysis

Other sources that may provide you with a perspective on your topic and help you identify useful search terms:

Full text news databases at SFU Library

SFU Library's list of news databases contain several sources that are useful for this research:

  • Canadian Newsstream
    The full text of major Canadian daily newspapers and Western Canadian weeklies. Stories are presented as HTML so images and the layout context are not preserved. 
  • CBCA Complete
    Current events as covered in Canadian newspapers, newswires, newsmagazines, as well as television and radio transcripts. Includes some full text, in html and pdf files.
  • PressDisplay
    Current issues (1-3 months) of newspapers from around the world.  Provide replica of print source so the context  (layout, illustrations) for stories is available.
  • LexisNexis
    International news coverage, strongly American with good coverage of Canadian sources & topics
  • Factiva
    Over 35 000 sources (newspaper, newswire, industry publications, websites, company reports, and more) from 200 countries, in 26 languages
  • Alternative Press Index
    Indexes roughly 380 alternative, radical, and left publications.
NOTE:  Some databases can be complicated to use. If you get stuck, search for available tutorials that can help you learn about that specific platform. For example, Factiva and LexisNexis have great tutorials available on YouTube: Factiva YouTube Channel and LexisNexis YouTube Channel

Canadian labour and alternative press publications 

SFU Library has access to many publications that could be useful for this research. Keep note of relevant titles you hear about in class discussion or through research and search the library catalogue to gain access to those publications. Here are a few examples:

NOTE:  You can access available full text for any publication to which SFU Library provides access by searching the publication name in the electronic journals database. If you can not find a specific journal through the library, get in touch with a librarian who can help you by providing possible access solutions.
If you would like to find print or microform subscriptions at SFU, use the SFU Library catalogue journal title search.


You may want to explore websites for alternative and labour news sources. Consider independent news on the web, environmental NGO journals and look through labour union websites (perhaps national or provincial) for material on your chosen labour field. Here are a few examples:

Searching news sources methodically

It's effective to plan your search before you tackle the databases and to track the databases you search, as well as the terms that you use.

1. Write down a sentence describing the topic of your search:

Compared to corporate media, alternative media offers vastly different frames on the impact climate change has on jobs within the petroleum industry.

2. Identify the key concepts in your topic. 

Compared to corporate media, alternative media offers vastly different frames on the impact climate change has on jobs within the petroleum industry.

3. Brainstorm synonyms or related terms for these key concepts.

You may need to do some background reading to identify pertinent terminology.

Group the terms that relate to one of your key concepts. Your key concepts can be as specific as corporate names or as broad as the industry. Keep adding or deleting key concepts as you search.

Jobs: employment, labour/labor, trade unions, economy, jobless, work, oil workers
Climate change:  environment, environmentalism, greenhouse gases, carbon tax, 
Petroleum industry: energy industry, pipelines, Kinder Morgan, fossil fuels, oil sands, tar sands, Fort McMurray, wildfire, fire


4.  Track research: search terms, search expressions, databases

Track the terms that you use to search, using an Excel spreadsheet or other record, grouping them by concept, noting definitions. As you find literature, you will add to this list of terms. 

Use this tool to track which search terms, search expressions and databases you've used, in order to provide a record of your literature review / content analysis methodology.

5. Select an appropriate database for your search. 

To choose an  appropriate news database, consider the nature of your research:

  •  Are you researching coverage in mainstream sources?  Or are you looking for coverage from an "alternative" perspective?
    You should try your search in several news databases to get a sense of the range of results.
  • What is the scope of the specific news database? Does it provide geographical and chronological coverage suitable for your search?
    Do all the news source have to be Canadian? YES but you might consider whether you should limit at the outset or when evaluating your results.
    Many databases enable you to include a publication date range, in order to focus your search on a specific time period.
  • Are you looking for coverage of the story by specific publications?  Does the news database include all stories in the publication or only selected?  Which edition does it cover (i.e. national or regional)?  Look for a link to a publications list in the database description page or after you connect.  You can often select specific news sources or groups of publications as the target for your search. 
  • Does it matter whether the source contains images, advertising, editorial content? 
    You can identify stories through database searches and supplement these by viewing microfilm copies of relevant newspapers. These provide photographic reproductions of the newspapers as published in print.

6. Use the search boxes to enter your search expression.

Use OR to combine terms that are conceptually related.

Use AND to connect the groups in order to find records that have at least one of the terms from each group. 

jobs OR employment OR labour OR labor
climate change OR environmentalism
petroleum industry OR energy industry OR pipelines OR "Kinder Morgan"

In the Canadian Newsstream database, the search might look like this, with a date range selected:

Advanced search in Canadian Newsstream
7. Review your search results.

Analyze your results in order to assess and modify your search terms or search statement.

You can use the database limiters to scope your results according to subject, publication, etc. In the following image, the subject headings in the search result records are ranked by frequency of occurrence in the results. This can give you a sense of how the results group by topic.

 Search results

Note which terms produced the best records / stories in your results, as well as new search terms related to your concepts, so you can incorporate these into future searches.

If some stories don't seem like a good match, consider ways to refine your search term to exclude these from your results.

8.  Consider whether you need to focus your search, by date, by publication, or other parameters.

The database may enable you to limit your search terms to particular segments of the news story, such as the headline / title and the lead paragraph / abstract.  Most news stories follow the "inverted triangle" with the most important information in the first paragraph so this can help you focus your search.

Similarly, consider whether your research would be improved by concentrating on particular types of news stories, such as editorials, opinion, columns, sports, etc.

9. Capture your results, either by emailing them to yourself or saving to a file. 

You will need to support your nomination with documentation of your research.

Academic journal database lists

These databases enable you to search for scientific and scholarly articles, useful both for background research and for your literature review.

Supplementary SFU Library guides

File attachments / images

Alternative Press Index.doc