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Communications: COMMS 600

How to Be a Research Pro: 6 Tips to Level Up

1. Search Multiple Databases

A. Start with Communications databases.

B. Use the library's Research Guides to find other relevant databases in related fields of study.

For example: 

  • Interested in media literacy? Check the Education guide for database recommendations.
  • Interested in gender research? Check the Global Women's Studies guide for additional databases.

BONUS TIP: You can search multiple databases at once if they are produced by the same publisher. 

  • In EBSCO, look for "Choose Databases" above the search bar:







  • In ProQuest, look for "Changes databases" above the search bar:

2. Brainstorm Lots of Search Terms / Keywords

A. Identify and experiment with keywords connected to your research question.

Example research question:

  • How do women in U.S. politics represent themselves in social media?

B. Use synonyms to expand your search terms:

  • women: women OR woman OR female*  
  • politics: politics OR "elected office"
  • represent themselves: "visual framing" OR "self-framing" OR framing
  • social media: Instagram OR Twitter


  • Use an asterisk (*) to search for all endings to a particular root word (in this example, female* will return results for female and females).
  • Use quotation marks (" ") to search for specific phrases or groups of words.

(Sample research question based on Madison Marie Parks' 2020 thesis, "Self-Framing of Women in U.S. Politics on Instagram.")

3. Try Searching with Subject Terms

Subject terms are like hashtags and are used to group articles together by topic.

A. Scan search results for subject terms that might be helpful.


B. Try a new search using a subject term. Make sure you update your search menu to "Subject Terms":

4. Save Links to Successful Searches

A. Instead of using browser bookmarks (which typically fail in subscription databases), find and save database-provided links to successful searches.

  • In EBSCO, look for the Share >> Use Permalink pathway to copy a permanent link to your search results:


  • In ProQuest, look for the Save search/alert >> Get search link pathway:

5. Keep Files in One Place

6. Keep a Research Log or Research Notebook

Keep track of the databases you search and the keywords / terms / phrases you use. Create a simple "Notes" document or create a log (here's a template to try or create your own).

Bonus Tip: Meet with a Librarian

I am ALWAYS available to meet -- either in-person or via Zoom -- to discuss your research. Don't wait until you're feeling stuck. Schedule an appointment for a day and time that work well for you. Looking forward to working with you!     --Elizabeth

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Elizabeth Smart