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MCOM 262: Reporting (Simonson)

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.