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Media Studies

Media Studies refers to the broad range of interdisciplinary subjects focusing on media culture and production.

Getting Started

For MSCH J450, you will be writing a research paper on a topic in American history prior to 1960 which intersects with journalism or media.  This paper should include primary sources including, but not limited to, newspapers, magazines government documents, oral interviews, court cases, broadsides, films and novels, as well as secondary sources in which scholars have already performed an analyses of such documents.  

This guide will provide recommended resources and tips for finding information for your particular topic. Use the tabs on the left hand side to navigate to different sections. 


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Research Tips & Resources

Essential Tips

  • Choose keywords selectively. Avoid empty words like "the" and "how."  
  • Consider what types of sources do you need. Choose a research tool with the right types of sources. 
    (e.g., IUCAT for books, library databases for scholarly articles, specialized databases for news or media images). 
  • Search strategies depend on the research tool. Experiment with keywords and search options.
    (In databases choose search terms more carefully.)

Boolean Operators

Use AND, OR, and NOT to narrow or broaden search results.

Using AND

  • narrows results
  • ALL terms must be in each search result

Note: in most, but not all, databases, the AND is implied. For example, Google automatically puts an AND in between search terms.

Example:  renewable energy AND China

Using OR

  • broadens results
  • searches for ANY of the terms in search results
  • connect similar concepts (synonyms)

Example:  renewable energy OR solar OR wind

Using NOT

  • narrows results
  • exclude words from search

Example:  peacekeeping NOT United Nations

Database Search Fields

Records in library databases are made of "fields." Fields can help narrow your search.


  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor
  • all text (searches the full text, if available)


Improving Search Results with Fields

  • Most databases automatically search by keyword (looking for the term anywhere in the record).
  • Limit the field for a search term to narrow the results. 
  • Fields are usually in drop down boxes.
  • If the database has a single search box with no drop-down menu, look for an "Advanced Search" option.

Adapted from SAIS Library, Johns Hopkins Univ. "Database Search Tips" Guide (no longer extant).

Primary sources sources as a key component of a successful history research paper.  Here you will find highlighted databases available through IU Libraries that include a range of primary sources related to American history.

For a more comprehensive list of databases, check out the IU Libraries' History Resource Suggestions and Journalism Resource Suggestions pages. You can narrow your focus by clicking the concentration tabs such as "Early U.S. History," "19th Century U.S. History," etc. on the left side of the page.

Primary vs. Secondary Source Table

Adapted from University Library, California State University, Los Angeles. "Differences between Books / Articles, Scholarly Journals / Magazines, Primary Sources / Secondary Sources " Guide

In order to gain a more complete picture of your issue and understand how historians have interpreted your topic of interest, you will want to locate secondary sources.

​Secondary Sources interpret and/or analyze events, facts and primary sources. From a date perspective they are usually one or two steps removed from the event.  Most of the time, in academia, "scholarly sources" are preferred, i.e. sources that have been peer-reviewed, include documentation (footnotes/endnotes), critical analysis and/or studies. In the fields of History and Journalism there are several library databases/indexes that identify these materials including:

Always cite your sources. Follow these Quick Style Guides or the complete style manuals.

Quick Style Guides

Are you working with government publications? You may want to consult A Guide to Citing U.S. Government Publications developed by the Government Information, Maps and Microforms Services Department (GIMSS).

Full Style Manuals
Most citation questions can be answered with the quick guides above. For more specific questions, refer to these full manuals, or consult a librarian.