Skip to Main Content

JOUR 4040/COMM 6040: Media History (Carrie Whitney, Fall 2023): Home

The HIstory of Media Coverage

The tabs on this guide will give you information about searching for resources in a range of formats.

It's important that you understand the distinction between "primary source" and "secondary source," and that these definitions are about how you use a source, not just about a source's intrinsic identity. Almost anything -- including scholarship! -- can be treated as a primary source, but the definition of what counts as a secondary source is more limited.

Primary sources are the raw materials of historical research - they are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art) but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories). You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.

In contrast...

Secondary sources are scholarly interpretations of events written after an examination of primary sources and usually other secondary sources, such as books and journal articles. Generally, when you write a research paper, you are writing a secondary source. Secondary sources will include citations of the primary and secondary sources consulted (which means that those citations may also help you find sources for your research!)

Keep in mind that for media history, a source could be either a primary source or a secondary source, depending on how you use it. A scholarly article or book published in 1965, for example, could be a primary source showing how scholars wrote about a particular issue in 1964-1965.

* * * * *

When searching for secondary sources (scholarly books and articles) on your topic, if you are searching for items that specifically focus on media coverage of an event, person, place, etc., try adding terms like "media" or "press" or "news*" to your search (an asterisk after news will turn up results using "news," "newspaper," "newspapers" -- anything starting with the letters n-e-w-s). 

Identifying a Topic

Searching for resources on your topic wil be easier if you have specific terms to search with.

Too broad:

Media representations of the Civil Rights Movement (which media? which aspect/event/person in the Civil Rights Movement?)


Representations of the Civil Rights Movement in Life Magazine (why? is limited to one source)


Black newspaper coverage of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (why? limited to a smaller set of sources, focused on a particular, named group/event)

* * * * *

Databases can be very literal. Searching using a broad term like "Civil Rights Movement" may bypass articles that focus on a particular event without including the phrase "Civil Rights Movement" in the article's title or subject terms, etc. A more specific term -- a particular name, organization, event, even a place, can help focus your searching (and also help you focus your topic!). 

Also! Thinking mindfully about what media you are going to consider can also help you with searching for primary sources. Television news media can be difficult to locate. Print media will be easier -- even if we don't have the print media you need in digital form (in a database for example), libraries can lend microfilm of print media, and we have microfilm readers that will let you scan to PDF. 

Do We Have That? Checking For Availability

To find out if the GSU Library provides access to a particular magazine, journal, or newspaper, start by searching in the library's catalog. From the library's homepage, click on "Journals" in the dropdown menu under "Discovery" and type the publication's title into the search box (yes, this will look up magazine and newspaper titles even though it says "Journals")

Look for results that say "Online access."

Click on the magazine's title and look for the View Online section. You'll see information like this.

Check the publication dates {"Available from") that are available for each option and choose the one(s) that include the dates you are looking for. In the list below, if you are looking for the most current issue, you'd want to click on either the EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete option or the ProQuest Central - GALILEO option (since the Factiva option doesn't include articles published after 2017). 

(Pssst: Factiva is difficult to use. If you see an EBSCO or a ProQuest option, start with those as those are generally a little easier to use. Additionally, EBSCO and ProQuest databases will allow you to download a PDF of the article. Factiva won't.)

JOUR 4040/COMM 6030 Media History Library Instruction Session

Communication Librarian / Humanities Instruction Librarian

Profile Photo
Leslie Madden
Library South
Suite 542

Selected Encyclopedias Etc. (for topic ideas!)