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PR Capstone: Researching

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Interlibrary Loan (or ILL) is a free service available to students.  It allows you to borrow materials that Westminster College does not own, including articles, books, DVDs, and more.   

Reflect: Your evolving topic

Half of research is the research- the other half is keeping track of your process and what you think.

Keep asking yourself:

  • How is my topic changing?
  • Which search terms am I having the most success with? 
  • Which research questions *seem* to be the most 'answerable'?
  • How am I going to add to this knowledge?

Searching 201

Boolean search is a common search language in many databases and even basic search engines like Google. It allows you to search beyond single words and refine your search terms.

  • AND allows you to combine two terms
    • "Social media" AND "celebrities"
  • OR will tell the database that either term is acceptable
    • "social media" OR facebook OR twitter
  • NOT will exclude words from your search and narrow your search
    • "social media" NOT "digital media"
  • " " are used for terms that are more than one word
    • "social media"
  • * is for truncation, it's good for words with multiple endings
    • celebrit* (would look for terms that start with celebrit-, things like celebrity, celebrities
  • ? and # can be used for wild card, or if you looking for words with multiple spellings
    • colo?r, for color, colour
    • wom!n, for woman, women
  • You can combine all these things to make much longer searches
    • ("social media" OR facebook OR twitter) AND celebrit*

Every database and site might use a slightly varied approach to these advanced searching techniques, check with the one your are using.

Here is EBSCOhost's guide (Communication and Mass Media) 


Research is, observation, questioning, hypothesis, prediction, experiment and result.

Top Databases

The following list of online indexes and databases are a great place to start your research.  But, since you may have need of other resources outside of the ones listed here, you can also find a full listing of all indexes and databases available through McGill Library.

News and Magazines

Demographics and Stats

Finding Nothing? Finding EVERYTHING? How to adjust.

By Alison Broosh, Hyperbole and a Half.

Oh no! This is sad.

Good thing is, you won't have to start over completely, but you might need to adjust!

If you're finding a lot. Like, really, a lot: You may need to reconsider or refocus your topic. Some topics are "overdone" and it's hard to say anything original about them. A broad topic will make it harder to cover the material in your paper and have the time to make specific connections. If your searches are returning 100s or 1000s of results in MLA, it may be time to focus in.

If you're not finding anything: A topic that's too narrow can be just as frustrating if not more so. Try searching synonyms or being a little bit less specific in your search. You might find similar works, or authors that have dealt with the same theme in a different way. You can use these sources and build connections upon them.

In either case, talk to your professor or a librarian!

You might also want to visit the guidelines for a good topic or research question and search around for good examples.