CMNS 110 / 130 for FIC (Fraser International College) - term paper research

If you have questions about finding sources for your assignment, please Ask a Librarian.

Using a citation to find readings

Course readings are academic sources that relate to the content of the class. If a course reading can be used to discuss your topic, it's a good sign that your topic relates well to the course. 

Academic sources also include in-text citations and reference lists that you can use to find other literature on your topic. Citation information is essential for finding the original source. You will also need this information to cite the source in your term paper. 

Citations provide information to help you find the source:  the title and author(s) names, the year of publication. For journal articles, a citation also includes the title of the journal, the volume and issue number and page numbers. For books, a citation includes the publisher and place of publication. Book chapter citations include the name of the book containing the chapter and the page numbers for the chapter.

Citation information is essential for finding the original source. You will also need this information to cite the source in your term paper.

Sample journal article citation:

Bailey, J., Steeves, V., Burkell, J., & Regan, P. (2013). Negotiating With Gender Stereotypes on Social Networking Sites: From “Bicycle Face” to Facebook. Journal Of Communication Inquiry, 37(2), 91-112. doi:10.1177/0196859912473777

How to interpret the citation:

  • J. Bailey, V. Steeves, J. Burkell and P. Regan are the authors of the article.
  • "Negotiating With Gender Stereotypes on Social Networking Sites: From “Bicycle Face” to Facebook" is the article title.
  • This article was published in volume 37, issue 2 of the journal called Journal Of Communication Inquiry, on pages 91 to 112.
  • The publication date was 2013.
  • The doi is a unique number assigned to digital journal articles.

Sample book chapter citation:

Seyed-Emami, K.  "Youth, politics, and media habits in Iran". In M. Semati (ed.), Media, culture and society in Iran: living with globalization and the Islamic state (pp. 57-68).  London: Routledge, 2008.

How to interpret the citation:

  • K. Seyed-Emami is the author of the book chapter.
  • "Youth, politics, and media habits in Iran" is the title of the book chapter.
  • M. Semati is the editor of the book.
  • Media, culture and society in Iran: living with globalization and the Islamic state is the title of the book.
  • The book was published by Routledge, in London, in 2008.
  • The chapter can be found on pages 57 to 68 of the book.

Sample book citation

Alsultany, E. Alsultany, E. Arabs and Muslims in the media : race and representation after 9/11. New York : New York University Press, 2012.

How to interpret the citation:

  • E. Alsultany is the author of this book.
  • Arabs and Muslims in the media : race and representation after 9/11 is the title of the book.
  • New York is the place of publication, where the book publisher is located.
  • New York University Press is the book's publisher.
  • The book was published in 2012.

How to use the citation to find the source:

Use the FastSearch box, on the SFU Library homepage, to enter the title of the article or the title of the chapter, enclosed in quotation marks. If you enter the title of the book, you will find the record for the whole book.


Enter the title of the journal or book in the SFU Library catalogue.  In APA citation style, the italicized words are the complete book or journal title that contain the book chapter or journal title. Search the italicized words as a title search in the Library catalogue. 

If you think that the journal is available digitally, you can also enter the title in the Electronic journal search linked from the homepage. Then drill down to the correct volume, issue and page numbers to find the article contained in that journal.

The book chapter title may appear in the catalogue record for the book or not.

Academic sources

Academic sources are written by experts and to be read by experts, students and scholars in the field. Academic sources may also be called "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed."  Most academic publications are "peer-reviewed" which means each submission is judged by a panel of experts in the discipline before it's accepted for publication.

Look for three things to determine if a source is scholarly:

  • the author's qualifications, affiliated with a university or research institution
  • in-text citations or footnotes and a bibliography (also called References, Works Cited, or Further Reading)
  • expert language

Learn more:  What is a Scholarly Journal?

Web sites may contain useful information from government bodies, media activist groups, industry associations and other credible sources. However, you can also find much old, incomplete and inaccurate information on web sites because there's no editor to ensure only valuable information is published.

Web sites often provide information about the organization who's created the information (look for links on home page, like "About this organization" or "Mandate"). When you're using a web source, you need to critically evaluate the quality of the source. Check out our guide on Internet Research to help you further.

Background sources

Review your course lecture notes

It's useful to choose a topic that comes from something you already know and have an interest in exploring more fully.

One of the advantages of starting with scholarly sources, such as your course readings, is that they usually provide a list of additional sources on your topic. These bibliographies (also called References, Works Cited, or Further Reading) list the sources the author consulted in his/her research and provides citations so you can find these works for yourself.

Find background sources

Once you've chosen a topic, you may want to get some background information to help you get started.

Specialized encyclopedias will give you an overview on your topic and provide you with a bibliography of additional sources on the topic.

  • International encyclopedia of communication [online]
  • Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications [online or print]
  • International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences print
  • Canadian Encyclopedia [online]

Dictionaries can help you understand the terminology used in Communication literature. See the background information on the Communication Research Guide for a list.

Searching for academic sources

Using the library catalogue

Search the SFU Library Catalogue for books (print & electronic) and reports. Each item has a catalogue record that contains a description of the item (author, title, publisher, year of publication), and finding information (location, call number). You cannot search for the articles in journals or newspapers using the library catalogue; however, you can search to see if SFU has a particular journal or newspaper.

Search technique:

Do a KEYWORD search for your topic. If you find a useful-looking book, click on the title to go to the catalogue record, then:

  • Click on the author's name to find other works by the same author held by the SFU Library. 
  • Click on the subject terms to find other works on the same topic. Subject headings are used consistently to identify all works on a specific topic. You can also modify parts of the subject heading (e.g. geographic focus) to broaden your search.
  • The call number is both an address for the book on the shelf AND a code for what the book is about. Browsing that area of shelving in the library may help you find other useful works.

Specialized databases

To find articles in journals, newspapers and magazines, search a specialized database. A good search strategy includes using more than one, since your topic may be covered in several databases, from different perspectives.

Some databases include primarily scholarly articles, some cover popular articles, and some a mixture of both. For help on the differences between scholarly and popular articles.

Most journal articles are available electronically, and many are also available in print. Print journals are shelved on the 6th floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby), shelved in alphabetical order by the title of the journal (not the article title). Recent issues (usually the current year) and older issues are shelved in the Print Journals area.

Check out these tips on how to find journal articles.

Communications databases

Cross-disciplinary databases

Newspaper and magazine article databases

Search tips:

  • Brainstorm some keywords to use for your search.

  • If you find a useful-looking article, click on the title to go to the article record, then look at the subject terms. You can use these terms in your search to find more articles on the same topic.

  • Consider using synonyms or related terminology (e.g. television or broadcasting or programming or programs)

  • To narrow your results, use a limiting feature or add another concept to your search. For example, instead of searching for "broadcasting", search for "broadcasting policy" or "broadcasting and policy."

  • Different spelling or abbreviations (e.g. television or tv)

  • Broader or narrower terms (e.g. television or "cable television" or "satellite television" or specific genres of television)

Refining your search

Too few or no results?

  • Check for spelling errors or typos
  • Use truncation (*) at the end of root words, to find all variations (e.g. broadcast* will find broadcast, broadcasts, broadcasting)
  • Think of synonyms for your search term and join them together with OR (e.g. television or broadcasting or programs)
  • Choose a broader or related topic word
  • Try searching a different database

Too many results?

  • Narrow your focus by adding another word to your search with AND (e.g. broadcasting and Canada)
  • Limit your search by date, language, format (journal articles only)
  • Use more specific terminology (e.g. soap operas rather than television)
  • Use the subject headings to search for only those records which focus on this topic

Documenting your research

If you're not sure how to use sources appropriately, check out the Library guide to avoiding plagiarism.

Write down details about your information sources as you find them, as well as your search strategies and keywords.  You can easily save citation lists from databases or catalogue into a file so you can use them in your paper's bibliography.

Citation guides

The assignment guide for CMNS 130 directs you to use APA citation style. See Citation Guide: APA, for examples of frequently cited publication types.

If you need help finding how to cite unusual sources, Ask a Librarian.