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Syracuse University Libraries

Visual Communications

A research starting points guide for Newhouse Visual Communications students


SU Libraries offers valuable research tools and sources designed to assist students researching within visual communications.  See this guide's menu bar for links to starting points.  Consider the Ten (10) starting point strategy reminders below and seek out a librarian for advice or an appointment when you require further guidance.

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Ten (10) Starting Point Strategy Reminders
-when marrying your source exploration to course assignment objectives

1. QUALITY NOT QUANTITY:  Focus on relevance and qualitative appropriateness of sources encountered and not a goal of using a maximum number of databases [using more than 2 or 3 will yield better results most of the time;  using 20 or 30, most likely is not needed, unless perhaps research is doctoral level or aiming to do the most comprehensive of scholarly searches known as a systematic review 

2. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC PERIODICAL/MAGAZINE(S):  Browsing back issues of single specifically entitled magazines, trade publications, or scholarly journals (if the latter are especially relevant to what you are pursuing) may often be equally or more effective than entering numerous search queries into dozens of different databases.  Navigate to such titles (assuming the library collects them) by entering a title(s) of interest into the journals A to Z list (e.g., Aperture, British Journal of Photography, International Journal of Visual Design, Communication Arts, etc.) || The library's journals list also contains lengthy lists of all magazines and journals available at SU via the library.  Most that are useful for a visual communications course - are listed under the category called "Art, Architecture and Applied Arts."  Other categories often of interest to Newhouse students are "journalism & communications" and/or sometimes "music, dance, drama and film."  Pay attention to patterns as to which periodical/journal/magazine titles cover your topic(s) [and/or related locations, persons, organizations, etc.] most often

3. BE SELECTIVE IN PICKING DATABASES:  Considering the subpage of this guide called "databases," pick three or four databases to query and not thirty or forty (especially databases focused on art & design OR those with image or video content OR others especially relevant to an area you are exploring)

4. SUMMON SEARCHING IS A MUST FOR ALL:  Virtually all visual communications students should for sure include in their research process searching within SUMMON (apply search result filters from the left column of those results, such as filtering results by a desired "content type" AND/OR "area of study" AND/OR "publication date(s)."  Be sure to filter some of those results where you only look at results assigned the content type "book/ebook" and/or "book chapter."   The most interesting source discoveries often involve a combination of items found on Google/Google Scholar combined with similar sources located using academic library licensed collections

5.  SEARCHING AT LEAST ONE LARGE MULTIDISCIPLINARY DATABASE IS A MUST FOR ALL:  Virtually all visual communications students seeking highly scholarly secondary literature discussing a topic, or person, or other organization or technique or technology, should include searches in large multidisciplinary databases like ProQuest (strong combination of both scholarly and non scholarly sources), Project Muse (a bit more scholarly in focus, and good for humanities emphasis) and/or Scopus (exclusively covers highly scholarly academic journals only, rigorously tracks subsequent citations to earlier articles and claims to be the largest such database on the planet)

6. CHOICE OF SEARCH TERMS AND HOW YOU COMBINE THEM MATTERS: Keep a running list of relevant search words or phrases pertinent to your research focus (proper names of key person(s), organizations, technologies, techniques, theories, organizations, or places, are especially useful)

7. NON U.S. SOURCES:  When seeking non-U.S. examples via the library, a country name can be entered into SUMMON as a "subject term" combined with additional useful subject terms  - like the phrase "pictorial works" or subject term words like "design" or "photography" or "motion pictures," or "photojournalism." etc. || The advanced search screen in ProQuest also has a search field called "location" - into which one can enter a place name, combined with other search terms (for example, specifying "France" in the "Location" field combined with "photojournalism" searched anywhere)

8. PRESSREADER:  The news database PressReader (covering most of its titles on a 90 day rolling base, some for longer) is filled with hundreds of fully page imaged U.S. and non U.S. newspapers and magazines

9.  ACCESS WORLD NEWS:  The news database Access World News also does a good job bringing back search results that are not only text in articles, but includes images, and at times links out to websites and some (primarily U.S.) news video.  A growing collection of full page imaged newspaper pages available here, in addition to the Syracuse Post-Standard, includes the The Guardian (U.K.).  To navigate specifically to page imaged newspaper content, click into this database's A-Z Source List (upper left corner of its homepage), then re-sort the "format" column of that spreadsheet so "image" formats appear first.  Then select one of multiple page imaged newspaper titles one wishes to explore

10. USING THE "DOCUMENT TYPE" FEATURE IN PROQUEST TO ZERO IN ON IMAGE CONTENT/OR ON OPINION:  The ProQuest database, "advanced" search screen, includes a menu called "document type," where available filters for search results includes categories such as:  "advertisement,"  "editorial cartoon/comic,"  "illustration,"  and "image/photograph."  Other non-image categories include "editorial" and/or "letter to the editor."  IMPORTANT SEARCH TIP:  When trying to bring back visual content for some of those categories, avoid typing in too many search words all at once


Library Starting Points - Fundamentals

Short screencast style video introducing SU Libraries research starting points

Help With Citing?

Need help on formatting the sources you cite in your academic writing (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.) or want access to a full-fledged online bibliographic management system-like "Mendeley " or "Zotero?"  Visit the SU Libraries Citation Support website.

  • Note:  If using APA citation style, citations in recent articles of the Journal of Public Relations Research use the 7th edition of that APA publication manual as their guideline for that formatting (thus, an excellent source for current examples of how to properly format APA).

From the American Psychological Association, see also their

  • APA 7th - Common Reference Examples
  • APA Blog
    (search queries here often provide additional guidance on formats for citing content types beyond scholarly books, or other than articles from newspapers, magazines, or academic journals - for instance, how to cite a tweet, or how to format film or television references, etc.)


A P Associated Press
For stylistic guidelines for journalists particularly -SU Libraries also offers from Associated Press the:

AP Stylebook Online

More Guides Like This One

Visit for additional librarian created research guides in various disciplines.  Guides gather together relevant starting points considerations, links to discipline or content type specific databases and related recommendations

For example, visual communications students can consider also visiting any one or more of these guides 

Starting points on this main guide should be sufficient for most, but visit these other guides if desired (there will be duplication of some leading best bet databases on several of these guides).