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COM 365 — Introduction to Public Relations - Spring 2009

ATTENTION: This research guide was last modified on February 02, 2009, before the January 2012 redesign of the library's home page. Information on how to access journal articles, databases, and other library resources may be inaccurate or outdated.

For up-to-date instructions on accessing materials, please visit our tutorial pages instead.


Contact Information

Caroline Bordinaro


Questions to ask before beginning research



Finding Books

Magazine, Newspaper & Journal Article Sources

Research Paper Tips

APA Citation Style

Scholarly Internet Research & Public Relations Websites

General Research Tips

Questions to ask before beginning research
  • Where to Start?
    • What's your research question?
    • What information do you need to find?
  • Who cares about the same information? (e.g.: the government, competitors, investors, etc.)
    • What kind of information do they need?
    • Where would they get it?
  • Types of information available
    • Company and consular publications, such as websites, annual reports, etc. (primary sources)
    • Country studies, Articles from journals, magazines and newspapers (secondary sources)
    • Statistical, numeric and tabular data (primary or secondary)
  • Search Concepts
  • Boolean operators
    1. AND: Adidas AND marketing
    2. OR: Adidas OR Nike
    3. NOT: Adidas NOT shoes
  • Phrase searching " ": "Nike Sportswear of America"
  • Advanced Search

  • DATABASE: An organized collection of electronic information, such as photographs, addresses, or journal articles.
  • ONLINE JOURNAL INDEX: A database that contains magazine, newspaper and journal articles, e.g: Academic Search Premier. AKA Subscription Database.
  • SCHOLARLY JOURNAL: Also called academic or refereed journal. Articles usually reviewed by experts in the field before publication, published for a research audience, narrow focus, e.g.; Molecular Endocrinology
  • MAGAZINE: Publication of general interest: popular interest and broad subjects (e.g: Psychology Today)
  • SUBJECT HEADINGS : Also called descriptors. Official terms used to classify items in a database.
  • THESAURUS: List and finding aid for official controlled vocabulary terms. Also called Topic Index or Subject List.
  • ABSTRACT: a brief summary of the main content of an article
  • FULL TEXT: the complete article. Click on the   button to see if the Full Text is available.
  • CITATION: The basic information you need to find the full text of an article. It includes the title of the article, the author, the name of the publication, the date, the volume and issue number and the page numbers.


What is plagiarism? - Plagiarism is "The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft." (OED)

In essence, when you quote or paraphrase from somebody else's work without citing it, you are plagiarizing their work. Plagiarism is a serious matter, and could result in a lower or failing grade and even in your expulsion from university. Just rewording your work isn't enough to avoid plagiarism. Since you are still borrowing information heavily from another writer, you still need to include a citation.

But I didn't know! - Ignorance of the law is unfortunately no excuse. You can commit plagiarism without meaning to, and it's just as serious a problem if you do.

How can I avoid it? - You can avoid plagiarism by always citing your sources. Whenever you put a quotation or borrow information heavily from a source, be sure you include a citation in the proper APA style. This will let your professor know you aren't trying to pass the idea off as your own. Taking detailed notes on where you get your information helps a lot with this, since it prevents you from forgetting which is your own work and which is borrowed from others.

For more information, see your student handbook and this handout by Sheela Pawar at CSUDH

Finding Books

Start your research by going to the library home page.

Checking out books: You can see what books are available in the Torofind Library Catalog. Once you have found the books you want from the shelves on the 3rd or 4th floor, bring them downstairs to the Circulation Counter to check them out. If you are a new student you might need to register first at the Circulation Counter.

Click here for a tutorial on how to use the Torofind online catalog.

Library's Book Borrowing Policies

If the library does not have a book you need, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan.

Useful Books & e-Books

There are plenty of books in the library about Communications topics and Public Relations in particular. Try the following search in the library's online catalog and you will see a list of public relations books.

  • Go to the library's online catalog
  • In the drop-down menu to the left, select "Subject - Subject Words"
  • In the text area to the right, type in Public Relations
  • For a list of other similar subjects, click the Public Relations -- 17 Related Subjects link
  • For a list of general Public Relations books, click the Public Relations link
  • Once you have a list of books on the screen, you can sort your results with the drop-down menu at the right.
  • Select "Sort by year - newest to oldest" to see a list of books with the most recent books first.

The library also has several collections of e-books, books that have been scanned in and which you can access from home using the library website. The main collection of e-books is called eBrary. You can find it by clicking the "Find Journal Articles Now" header on the main library page, then selecting "E" for eBrary.

eBrary does require you to download and install their software before you can read books on their site. The computers in the library already have this software installed, but at home you will have to install it yourself before you can read any of the ebooks they have.

Links to useful e-books:

To find more, log in to ebrary and do a subject search for "Public Relations" (quotes included)

Magazine, Newspaper & Journal Article Sources
NOTE: These indexes must be accessed through the library home page at library.csudh.edu. Select Journal Articles & Electronic Resources. You may either browse by subject area or go to your favorite resource using the alphabetical List .

Articles and Scholarly Journal Databases

  • Communication & Mass Media Complete*: provides the best quality research, and is an invaluable resource for students, researchers, and educators interested in any and all aspects of communication and mass media.  Indexes several scholarly public relations journals.
  • Humanities Full Text*: provides complete content - indexing, abstracts, and full text.
  • Business Full Text*: Source for leading United States and international business magazines and trade and research journals. Full text coverage begins January 1995.
  • ABI/Inform*: indexes Communication World, Public Relations Quarterly and Public Relations Journal as well as many international business communications titles.
  • Wilson OmniFile Mega Full-Text*: complete articles from public relations journals and many other related fields.
  • Science Direct: indexes Public Relations Review and several other business related titles
  • Business Source Premier*: indexes many authoritative U.S. and international communications, public relations and business titles.

These are databases are not specifically communication-related, but they are very good for general information on studies and current news :

  • Academic Search Premier*
  • ProQuest Databases*
  • JSTOR: Peer reviewed journal articles on a wide range of Humanities subjects.

Company Data & Market Information Databases

  • Factiva - Type in a company name to get news, information, and financial reports about that company.
  • Hoovers Company Records - Includes up to date corporate data, in-depth industry analyses, company location, summary financials, top competitors, top officers, and more.
  • Mergent Online Industry Reports - provides company data & annual reports, indexing and full-text analysis of company information, companys' annual reports, inductrial reports. It also allows searching companies by country and by SIC Code.
  • Snapshots North America - designed to provide an instant overview of this geographic region, and the data is supplied in both graphical and tabular format for ease of interpretation and analysis. For best results, use the browse option.

Newspaper and Media Databases

  • LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe - Over 5,600 news, business, legal, medical, and reference publications with a variety of flexible search options.
  • ProQuest Newspapers (1988 - current) - Full text of 300+ U.S. and international news sources. Includes coverage of 150+ major U.S. and international newspapers such as The New York Times and the Times of London, plus hundreds of other news sources and news wires.
  • Los Angeles Times (1988 - current) - Full text of the LA Times from 1988 to current.
  • New York Times (1981 - present) - Index of NY Times from 1981 to current
  • Regional Business News - Includes full text coverage for regional business publications: 75 business journals, newspapers and newswires from all metropolitan and rural areas within the United States.

*To limit search to peer-reviewed journals only, look for check box next to Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly Journals, or Academic Journals on database search screen (may be in Advanced Search)

Search Suggestions

Once you are in a database, you can start to search for your article. All databases' search options are slightly different, but they usually include several search boxes you can fill out. Most databases will also let you search only for peer-reviewed or scholarly journals. For your research papers, you will want to make sure you check this option!

Articles which you can read in that database will have a link to the PDF full text or the HTML full text. Click on that text link to read the article. Some databases also let you e-mail yourself the files by clicking on an e-mail link.

Some articles will say "Check Availability of Complete Article" instead of having links to the full text. If you see this, it means the text of that article is not in the database you are searching. But don't worry! By clicking the link which says this, you can see a list of which databases do have the full text. If there are no databases containing the article you want, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan.

Having trouble logging in? Click Here

Research Paper Tips

Selecting a topic - When choosing a topic, make sure your search is not too broad or too narrow. Too broad of a search will give you far too many search results, which will make it hard to pick out useful articles. It will also mean that your paper will not be very effective and will be too vague. Too narrow a search will make it difficult to find relevant articles, and will mean that your paper will be too specific to be effective. Try to define your topic succinctly and make sure that you can find information about it before you start to write your paper.

  • Too Broad - Public Relations
  • Too Narrow - The use of YouTube to market dinosaur-related products to hispanic pre-schoolers in south-central Los Angeles
  • Just Right - The use of YouTube in Public Relations

Doing the Research - Check the other sections of this guide for information on where to start researching your topic. For tips on how to research, see the "General Research Tips" section of the guide towards the bottom.

Writing the Paper - After you have all your research done, create a basic outline of what you want to accomplish in your paper. This will really help to make sure your paper flows from one subject to another. It can also help you see whether you need to do more research or whether you have enough material. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to write! Starting on the day before the paper isn't a good idea, as it can make your work rushed and not as effective.

Cite your Sources - Be sure to properly cite anything you quote from books or articles. Citing lets your professor know that you've done your research, and it also stops you from accidentally committing plagiarism. For more information on citations and plagiarism, read those sections of this guide below.

Proofreading the Paper - Proofreading is an important step, and one that could mean the difference between an average grade and an excellent one. Check for spelling or grammar errors and make sure you are using the APA and AP styles correctly. Go back over the assignment description in your syllabus and make sure your paper has evreything in it that your professor wants. Proofreading is another reason to start early: It's hard to proofread effectively when you finish writing the paper 10 minutes before class starts!

APA Citation Style

Every formal research paper includes a list of bibliographic citations describing the books, articles and other sources consulted. This list gives credit to those whose ideas you have referred to or quoted, presents information your readers can use to find further information and gives your paper scholarly authority. To avoid having to track down any missing information needed for your bibliography or list of works cited, be sure to record the necessary information (on file cards or in a computer file) about every source you consult as you are doing your research.

You must cite a book or article whenever you directly quote from it, but you should also cite it when you are just paraphrasing. Interviews should also be cited.

APA style is the citation and formatting style created and used by the American Psychological Association. Not all citation styles are the same, so be sure to ask your professors which they want you to use. Other styles include MLA , ASA and Turabian.

Click here for our tutorial on citing sources.

Click here for a cheat-sheet on APA citation style.

Scholarly Internet Research & Public Relations Websites

Remember, not all Internet sites are created equal. Some sites can be valid sources of information, but others are filled with opinion represented as fact. Here are some guidelines to follow when using the internet for research:

  • Check Credibility - Is it easy to figure out who's behind the information? Does the author know what they're talking about? Do they have qualifications in the field or some other reason to be trust-worthy in it?
  • Check Accuracy - Are the sources cited well? Is the information up-to-date? Are there any broad, sweeping generalizations that are impossible to verify?
  • Check Reasonableness - What is the page's point-of-view? Is it a corporate page trying to sell you a product? Is it a government or educational site where the main purpose is to educate people?
  • Check Support - Is it possible to double-check the information in another location?

Public Relations Websites

O'Dwyer's PR News - A selection of PR News and collumns. Most useful is the List of PR firms by location.

California PR firms at salesvantage.com - Another directory of PR firms in California.

PR Education from the University of Colorado - A collection of PR education resources, including a list of research resources .


Idealist - A list of non-profit organizations.

Scholarly Internet Resources

These are indexes to quality web sites that have been reviewed by librarians. The sites have been checked for accuracy, timiliness, stabilty, and will generally conform to the standards of academic research. However, please be judicious in the use of websites in general, because anybody can put anything on the web.

General Research Tips

Use multiple search terms - Remember, not every database or article uses exactly the same words to describe the same thing. Make sure you try several synonyms for the term you're trying to find. Most databases have a link titled "thesaurus" or "subject terms" which you can use to find out what words to search for.

Search in multiple places - The more places you look for information, the more information you're likely to find. Don't just search in one database and assume it's all you'll be able to find! Take a look at the list of Useful Databases earlier on in this page for where to start your search.

Ask for help - Don't be afraid to ask for help! Research can be an exhausting process, and sometimes a fresh perspective will make your task immensely easier. You can stop by the reference desk in the library and ask any of the reference librarians for help with your research. You can also http://library.csudh.edu/info/ask.shtml an online help request which a librarian will answer within a day or two.

Don't leave it until the last minute - The earlier you start, the better your paper will be.  Starting early gives you plenty of time to read and absorb the information so that you'll be properly informed when writing your paper.