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CMNS 235 Introduction to Journalism Studies - Term paper research guide (Fall 2013)

This guide is intended to help you conduct research for your term paper proposal and final draft. 

If you do not find what you need in this guide, please Ask a Librarian

If you don't need an answer immediately, contact Sylvia Roberts, Liaison Librarian for Communication & Contemporary Arts for Communication.  You can reach me at or SFU Vancouver: 778.782.5043 (main) SFU Burnaby: 778.782.3681.   My time is split between SFU Burnaby and SFU Vancouver it works best if we can set a specific time and place to talk, by phone or in person.

PPT slides

Staying current with the news

The SFU Library subscribes to print editions of several daily newspapers, such as the Vancouver Sun, the Globe & Mail, the New York Times, etc.

The SFU Library subscribes to a variety of news databases, which are listed in our News sources page.  These full text databases include the text of stories published in newspapers and is searchable. However, most do not duplicate the print format of newspapers, excluding advertisements, photos, etc.

  • PressReader
    Contains the last 1-3 months coverage in newspapers from Canada and throughout the world.  Replicates page images, with ads, photos, etc. reproduced as in the print edition
  • CBCA Complete
    Canadian publications focusing on current events: newspapers, newswires, newsmagazines, as well as television and radio transcripts 
  • Canadian Newsstream
    Fulltext of major Canadian newspapers and Canwest's small-market BC papers. 2 day embargo on news stories means that the most current issues are not part of the database until they are two days old.
  • LexisNexis
    International news coverage, business news, legal cases and law reports.

You can also access online news outlets such as Vancouver Sun, CBC News, CNN, BBC News, Foxnews, Aljezeera, etc. 

Term paper criteria

From the Term Papers Explanation (1 page proposal due Oct.23)

Research:  Your paper should apply all the relevant theories and viewpoints discussed in this course, but must have extra references related to subjects of the course as well. I expect, minimum 2 additional academic references related to course topics.

You choose a hard news that has happened since the first day of our class.

You must use two media types (TVs, radios, newspapers, online websites, etc ) and at least two media outlets of each type.

For example: you may choose (Foxnews and global) TV channels and ( and websites.

The media and content that you choose for your paper must be able to highlight and support the hypothesis that you have formed in your mind after monitoring the news media.

As stated in the Term Paper Explanation, your term paper should have a clearly stated argument or thesis.   

This thesis should emerge from your research findings. Your position on your selected topic should be informed by evidence found in scholarly research literature. 

An APA formatted bibliography of at least 5 academic sources needs to be included with your proposal. As well as pertinent course readings, you are required to use a minimum of 2 additional academic references.   These references can be to journal articles or books, whether published in print or electronic form.

If you are uncertain as to how to recognize an academic source, refer to the SFU Library guide What is a Scholarly Journal?

You are required to cite these sources in APA style. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, see SFU Library's APA Citation Guide.

Preparing to search

Start by writing down the topic of your hard news stories and your observations of the coverage of that topic. 

 Negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear weapons grade uranium caches

Note the 4 media types and outlets that you will use as the focus for coverage.

Globe & Mail (newspaper), CBC News (online web site), Al Jazeera (online web site), The Guardian (UK newspaper)

Review your course readings to find those that discuss issues related to the nature of your hard news topic selection. 

Are there issues relating to representation of Iranians?
Are there ideological or political aspects to the coverage?
What are the differences between news sources as to the framing of the story?

Do some test searches  to discover what kind of communication research has been done that relates to news coverage similar (in some way) to your focus. The results may suggest some ways to focus your topic and provide some perspectives for your argument. Test searches will also help you test the viability of your topic choice by ensuring that you can find enough scholarly research to support your discussion.

I used the Library Catalogue to search for:
     iran news coverage nuclear
I limited my search to journal articles and articles from the last 10 years, using the limiting options in the left sidebar. 
My results list contains some useful looking articles but the search engine also suggests that I search Communication and Mass Media Complete, a subject specific database that is the best match for this search.

You will have to decide whether the resulting articles are useful for examining the nature of your hard news story's coverage, whether discussing coverage of similar stories or media outlets.

Would any of the following articles be useful in a discussion of news coverage of Iran's nuclear stockpile? The article title links to the Communication and Mass Media Complete database record.

Klein, A. (2009). Characterizing “the Enemy”: Zionism and Islamism in the Iranian and Israeli Press. Communication, Culture & Critique, 2(3), 387-406. doi:10.1111/j.1753-9137.2009.01045.x

Fogerty, B. J. (2005). Determining economic news coverage. International Journal Of Public Opinion Research, 17(2), 149-172.

Wanta, W. W., & Hu, Y. W. (1993). The agenda-setting effects of international news coverage: an examination of differing news frames. International Journal Of Public Opinion Research, 5(3), 250-264.

Mellese, M., & Müller, M. G. (2012). Mapping Text-Visual Frames of Sub-Saharan Africa in the News: A Comparison of Online News Reports From Al Jazeera and British Broadcasting Corporation Websites. Communication, Culture & Critique, 5(2), 191-229. doi:10.1111/j.1753-9137.2012.01123.x

Rasti, A., & Sahragard, R. (2012). Actor analysis and action delegitimation of the participants involved in Iran’s nuclear power contention: A case study of The Economist. Discourse & Society, 23(6), 729-748. doi:10.1177/0957926512455380


It is a convention of scholarly literature to cite publications that the author has consulted in the course of their research. This is an advantage as scanning their reference lists can often provide you with a direct route to additional sources.

Scholarly books provide in-depth treatment of topics and can provide a useful overview of issues.  Find books by searching the library catalogue  or using the library search box in the upper right hand corner of the SFU Library home page.

Searching for academic articles can help you focus your topic, providing examples of specific research questions, methods, theoretical approaches and findings.  See below for links to article databases that are effective for researching CMNS 235 topics.

Background sources:

If you want to enhance your understanding of a topic prior to beginning your research, I suggest you use a specialized background source. The articles contained in the following sources are useful in providing an introduction to a topic, outlining issues and approaches that pertain, and citing further readings.

Search terms:

Spend some time planning your search for relevant literatures so you have a strategy if your first search doesn't produce useful results.

Start by writing out your research questions, for example:

Are there differences between how online news sources and daily news sources cover topics?
How do Canadian news sources frame topics?
What's the ideological stance of Al Jazeera?
Is the coverage of nuclear materials different from coverage of other types of conflict related topics, given that they can be used for power generation as well as weapons?

You may not be able to find sources that discuss all of these questions but you may be able to find sources that discuss aspects of them.

Identify the key concepts included in your question.

Is the news coverage of the Iranian nuclear stockpile different from coverage of Western countries' nuclear materials issues?

Consider alternative terminology for your main concepts.  You will be using these as search terms so it's useful to have some additional words, if your first search terms don't produce useful results.

News coverage:  news, journalism, journalists, framing, newspapers, reporting

Nuclear stockpile:  nuclear, nuclear weapons, uranium

Iranian: Iran

As you search, you will encounter additional search terms describing relevant publications, such as subject headings, descriptors or author keywords.

Depending on what you find in your initial topic testing searches, you may want to focus your research, by specifying the news medium or how the influence is manifested, for example, newspapers, television, radio, online, etc.

Searching for articles

As directed, you need to find academic articles, in addition to your course readings, to support your discussion of  news coverage.

Academic articles can be found by searching article databases. Each database contains records describing articles published in every issue of an array of academic journals.  You can search by topic and find articles that match your search terms.

Start your search for news coverage related articles in the following databases.  Use the Get@SFU link to find available full text if not included within the database.

  • Sociological Abstracts
    Indexes sociological literature, including communication. Strong scholarly content.
  • Indexes popular magazines and academic journals, many that cover communication and media studies topics
  • Indexes Canadian publications, business, news & scholarly
  • Business Source Complete
    Indexes business literature. Good for telecommunications, media and cultural industry information, advertising and marketing topics.
If your results are not what you need, review the advanced searching techniques listed in the CMNS 130 research guide or Ask a Librarian how to make your search more effective.