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MCOM 262: Reporting (Simonson): Home

Background Knowledge

When you begin a research project, it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect on your prior knowledge of the topic area. How much do you already know about this topic? How confident are you in moving forward with this topic? In most cases, you will need to do a bit of research to get some general information on your topic. 

A great way to gather background information is through searching reference materials. Reference materials such as Encyclopedias and Dictionaries are arranged alphabetically and contain a general overview of a term or subject matter. 

The library has access to encyclopedias and dictionaries in print and online through particular databases. 

Online Encyclopedic Databases:


Researching prior newspaper stories is a key skill in journalism. To find these articles, one needs to take advantage of indexes. A few examples include:

  • The New York Times Index
  • Personal Name Index to the New York Times
  • Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature

It is helpful to use indexes for a number of reasons. They allow you to quickly find an article, or multiple articles. You can search by such assess points as subjects, dates, authors, and more. The index will provide you with precise information about the location of articles. This is important because many databases have a limitation in the years that they cover, and you may have to locate the article through means such as microform. Knowing precisely what date, page, and column the article is located in will save you a lot of time and effort. 

Newspaper Databases

Although databases can have a limitation on date coverage, they can still be vital resources. The library provides students with access to multiple newspaper databases. This means that you can access particular databases online and search in multiple ways to find articles.

To see what the library has to offer, go to the library website. On the main page, click on the Databases tab. Then select Browse by Discipline. Choose Newspapers from the list. You should see a list of databases that contain access to various newspapers. Read the descriptions below each title to see what content is contained within the database.

A very useful database is Nexis Uni (formerly known as Lexis Nexis). It can be accessed by clicking on the database tab on the library website. Select the letter N from the list of letters and scroll down until you see the link for Nexis Uni. 

All about Microform


Microform: a general term used to describe any material that contains a tiny image or micro reproduction

Microform Reader/Scanner: a special device used to magnify microform so that it is accessible

Microfilm: a type of microform in the shape of a roll of film

Microfiche: a type of microform that is a flat sheep of film around the size of an index card

Purpose: One of the purposes of microform is to store a large amount of information on a small amount of space. It also preserves information because it is easily duplicable and is fairly durable when treated properly. Microform is also cost-effective and provides a cheaper alternative to digital files.

Location: The microform and microform readers are located in a room in the sub-basement of the library. There are directions on how to use the microform readers located near the machines. If you need help, you may call extension x2727 on the phone located in the microform room. 


Librarians are available to help in several ways: 

  • Visit the Research Help Desk in Milne Library
  • Call the Research Help Desk at 607-436-2722
  • E-mail a question to a librarian and receive a response within 48 hours
  • Request a Research Consultation to meet individually with a librarian