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COM 712; Empirical Research Methods (Pennington): Introduction to Library Services & Resources

Resources to assist students with research projects


Welcome to the COM 712 Library Research Guide!


To begin, view the UNLV Libraries tutorials at this by clicking here.

Need more help?   Contact your librarian, Susie Skarl at

Communication Studies Related-Databases

Learn Effective Database Searching Strategies

Learn Effective General Searching & Database Search Strategies

  (The following are suggestions to improve your search results)

 Please note: Many publishers require authors to provide a list of keywords with their submitted publication. If you find a really great article that deals with your topic, check out the author's list of keywords (generally provided under the abstract). Here's an example:
Article Title: Channels of Computer-Mediated Communication and Satisfaction in Long-Distance Relationships
Keywords: communication technologies, computer-mediated communication, long-distance relationships, relationship satisfaction, communication satisfaction

Below are some other useful searching tips:

Use different search terms or keywords

  • Try using other words to describe your topic, it will give you better results. 
  • Examples: social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

 Truncation or wildcard (*)

  • This will locate alternate endings for your search term.
  • Example - comm* to find communications, communication, communicator, etc.
  • Note: Some databases use different symbols; consult the help page for the correct symbol

 Try different databases

  • Each database contains unique material, so searching a different database may yield more relevant research.

 Help page

  • Each database has a page with tips to help you effectively search that resource.

Some Journals to Get You Started

Finding Measures

Sage Research Methods Database

APA 7th Edition Resources

new edition of APA is has arrived (as of 10-19)!

APA has posted the introduction and table of contents, including what's new in the Seventh Edition, here:


Examples of some of the changes: 

  • endorses the use of singular "they"
  • no running head for student papers
  • issue number always included for journal articles
  • DOIs and URLS presented as hyperlinks

Using Mendeley

Tips for Searching Google Scholar

A note about Google Scholar . . . 

Although Google Scholar contains many resources, it does not contain access to all relevant resources for your research topic.  Researchers are strongly encouraged to look at the additional resources mentioned above to conduct a thorough literature review.  You do not need to purchase articles via Google Scholar many are available for through the UNLV Libraries or via Interlibrary Loan.

For help connecting to UNLV Libraries' resources through Google Scholar see the following.



Picking a Research Topic

This semester you will be required to select a topic to study for your final research paper. There are no limits on what you study, only how you study it (using quantitative research methods). As you think about what you want to study, a few tips:

  • Appropriate: First and foremost, be sure you have picked a topic appropriate for the assignment. Please review the final project guidelines to get a sense of what would work. Again, your topic should be something we can assess quantitatively.
  • Interest-based: Choose a topic that you are interested in. Writing about something you don’t care about will make the project harder!
  • Supported by Evidence: What research is out there on your topic already? Avoid picking something you have a hard time finding related articles on, it will make the project harder. Taking a few minutes at the start just to see what is out there will help you get a sense of direction.
  • Manageable in Scope: Similar to evidence, pick a manageable topic. Narrowing the scope (e.g., college students) or broadening your concepts (e.g., all social media, not just Facebook) can both help to make your project something you could viably propose. 
  • Replication and Extension: If you have a favorite article you've read but it left you with questions, this could be a great starting place for a study to replicate or extend those findings.

Take the time to brainstorm! Here are two questions you can ask yourself to help think through possible topics. First, have you read an article or seen something in the news that relates to the assignment? Second, have you personally experienced something related to the topic that you want to explore further? If you are still struggling with your topic, consider talking to peers and/or your professor to help solidify your choice. 

Developing Research Questions

Now that you have a topic, you want to develop research questions around your topic. Starting with your topic, consider the literature (past work) that you have reviewed, and consider — what is next? What don’t we know? What do we need to know more about? What questions linger for you after reading them? Taking that time to write this down as you go along will help you go back and pull different studies together to inform your thoughts. 

Some of the same things that form a good topic help guide a good research research question — you don’t want to be too specific or too broad, and you should have evidence that helps support what you are asking and why. As a rule of thumb a research question should be:

  • Specific-Focused: It is important to focus your topic; if you just say "do people use social media to form relationships" I don't know who people are, or relationships. A more focused or specific research question might ask: "How do college students use Instagram to develop friendships?"
  • Concise-Succinct: While we seek specificity, you want to avoid a too long or complex research question. One tip is to consider how many variables you have. If it is more than two, you might consider separating them into multiple research questions. Alternatively, using a list approach to your question can help to make it clearer. For example, building on the prior question, I might be interested in other types of relationships as well. So I might write: How do college students use Instagram to a) develop friendships and b) maintain friendships?"
  • Guided by Research: It is important that your questions arise from the work you have read and are informed by what we know. Let's say there are ample studies on Facebook and friendship, but not Instagram. In this way, I might review studies about Facebook, relating them to functions of Instagram. This could naturally lead to my questions.
  • Answerable: Most importantly, your research question should be something we can answer through the methods available to us. By being specific and concise you create a question we can answer and know. Limiting the scope to a specific group or context is helpful, but in a broader sense you want to think about how your question relates to your method selected. If I asked "How do college students describe their experience with online classes?" I would want to be sure my method allowed for that descriptive process, and that I sampled college students who had taken online classes.

Annotated Bibliographies Samples & Guides

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography


An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.


Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.


Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.


For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources. For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.



The following example uses APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Pennington, N. (2017). Tie strength and time: Mourning on social networking sites. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 61(1), 11-23.   

In this article, Pennington seeks to ascertain the role that the strength of tie (e.g., weak versus strong) and time (both in terms of time spent on social media and time since one’s friend has passed) play in finding support on the social networking site, Facebook. Pennington found, through a survey distributed to college students who had known someone who had died that they were Facebook friends with, that those who used Facebook regularly were more likely to find support on the site compared to those who had not. The study also found that relational closeness was related to visiting the Facebook profile of the deceased, but also was related to wanting the page removed from Facebook. Pennington concludes that there is no one right way to grieve, and more work is needed to ascertain the benefits and drawbacks of seeking support online while grieving.


Use Time-Saving Library Services & Resources

UNLV Interlibrary Loan: Use this account to get articles, books, and other resources from our interlibrary loan system that are not available through UNLV Libraries for free by clicking HERE to set up an account. 

RefWorks: Software that will allow you to store, organize and format your research citations via the Internet automatically.

Google Scholar is a subset of Google that is designed to search for academic and scholarly articles and books online.

Follow UNLV Libraries on Twitter & Like Us on Facebook: For library news, research assistance, schedules, resource updates, and more, follow us on Twitter: @unlvlibraries  & Like Us on Facebook.

Suggest a Purchase for the UNLV Libraries: Do you have a suggestion for an item that we should add to the library collections?  Click here to make your request.

Research Consultations: If you would like to schedule a time that is convenient for your schedule to discuss your research, please contact me at or 702-895-2141.

Citation Analysis Tools

Use the following resources to track citations, including by author, number of articles cited, number of articles published, etc.

Publication Information

Need to know where to publish, how to contact a publisher, and what has been published?  Check out the following resources.

Need Additional Help?

Susie Skarl, Urban Affairs Librarian's picture
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