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SPCH 1318: Communication Theories (Cooley)


What Is Your Research Topic?

Once you have made a decision, you should generate keywords. Keywords are search terms that you use when searching for information about your topic. The above video explains how you can write keywords. Watch it, then continue reading this section.

Once your instructor has approved of your choice of a communication theory, you should create keywords for that specific theory. Keywords, which will be your search terms, should not be too broad or too narrow.

Example: let's say that you have chosen Carol Gilligan's Different Voice theory. Potential keywords from broad to narrow are:

  1. different voice
  2. different voice and communication
  3. different voice and Gilligan
  4. different voice and communication and Gilligan

Your best chances are probably going to be options 2 or 3. "Different voice" by itself may not be enough because this term is used in a variety of fields. Adding the search term "communication" focuses on the field of communications. Using the theorist's name may, as you see in number 3, may help by triggering research article by your theorist or mentioning your theorist. You can and should, though, experiment with different keywords to see what fits your research needs best.



"Why not number 4? It's a lot more specific."

That's true. But it's possible that articles about your theory may not mention your theorist because other theorists have worked on it, too.

"Why not include the author's first name?" 

In some academic fields, it's common to not mention an author's first or middle name in order to conceal the author's gender. 


Background Searching

It can be hard to research a completely unfamiliar subject. If you can't yet define your theory with a single sentence, it may be best to get some background information about your theory and your theorist.

First, consult your textbook for information about your theory and theorist. Next, search the CREDO Reference database listed above. Do individual, separate searches for your theory and theorist. Doing background research like this will help you create better, more informed keywords.

Articles from Databases

Database Basics

Now that you have keywords, it's time to search the databases. Have you used the databases before? If you don't have recent experience with our library's databases, then I suggest watching this introductory video.

How to Use Academic Search Complete

The next video shows you how to search Academic Search Complete, which is one of the three databases ideal for speech research. All four of the databases listed in this section are structured the same way, so the tutorial video applies to all of them.

Remember to limit your search results to scholarly (peer-reviewed) journals if your professor has told you to use only those types of sources.


Databases to Explore



We have two excellent ebook databases. These let you read full-text books online. The interfaces can be confusing, so I have included a tutorial video for each one.

EBSCO EBook Collection


How to Search:


Search this Database:


ProQuest Ebook Central


How to Search:


Search this Database:

Finding Your Scholar's CV

Online Searching Hacks

Your professor may require you to find out information about your theorist. Results may vary, but one commonly productive search strategy is to search for college and university webpages about your scholar. Try searching Google for the name of your theorist while limiting your search results to sites that end with the domain .edu, as most schools do.  

Example: searching Google for information about Carol Gilligan might look like this:

  • Carol Gilligan

CV search


These search terms tell Google to only return pages that mention Carol Gilligan and end with the domain .edu. The first search result that we find is for the New York University School of Law, which includes a description of her professional life. There's a link to her "curriculum vitae."


FAQ: What's a Curriculum Vitae?

A curriculum vitae is a kind of resume that most scholar's use. Most curriculum vitae include lists of the degrees that the scholar has, as well as their professional positions, presentations, and publications. You may wish to include a summary of what you find here in the biographical portion of your paper.

APA Documentation

This is our video that introduces APA documentation. I urge you to watch the entire video carefully before starting to write your paper or annotated bibliography. It is much easier to cite correctly as you go along, rather than try to fix your documentation after you have written your paper.

This is our complete APA guide, which goes into more detail about citing sources and formatting correctly.

It includes our sample paper. When you're writing a paper, you can model the formatting of your paper after this one.

If you are unsure how to set up the formatting in Microsoft Word so that it fits the requirements for APA formatting, you could instead download this blank Word document that has the formatting already set up for you.

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