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Athabasca University

CS Library Pathfinder

This pathfinder is intended to help students locate information in the field of communication studies. Not all of the resources listed are available from the Athabasca University Library. This pathfinder will be useful to students with access to any library in his or her vicinity. Most academic libraries allow materials to be used by anyone in-house, however borrowing privileges may not necessarily be extended. Consult with the information desk of the respective library to confirm which privileges are available to you.

Definition - the communication studies field

Communication studies draws its independence from many academic disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, and philosophy. In an attempt to define what communication is, James Neuliep outlined that communication is:

A process that is irreversible (dynamic), involving at least two people (interactive),in a power relationship (transactional), that is symbolic and intentional, occurring in a particular time and space (contextual) and that is common to all human beings(ubiquitous), living in association with one another (cultural).

Communication studies examines all of these components and their respective implications on society.

General Reference Sources

General reference materials are helpful in providing background, definitions, and an overview of specific subjects that may lead to further sources of information. This category of sources may be divided into subcategories: dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

(1) Dictionaries - to define a word

Dictionaries provide definitions to terms. A subject dictionary for communication studies can help to clarify misunderstood or forgotten terminology. Also a subject dictionary can explain the specific connotations that some words hold within the communication studies field. Subject dictionaries can be located in the library catalogue by searching under the appropriate subject heading with the subdivision "dictionary." For example you may search the catalogue by entering "communications/dictionary" or "media/dictionary." The following list provides a sampling of dictionaries in the field of communication studies:

Ellmore, Terry R. NTC's Mass Media Dictionary. Lincolnwood, Ill., USA: National Textbook Co., 1991.

Herman, Edward S. Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992.

Penney, Edmund. A Dictionary of Media Terms. New York: Putnam,1984.


(2) Directories - to locate a name or an association, or to make a contact

Directories are sources for identifying names and addresses of associations, agencies, libraries, museums, people, organizations, and services. These names may be identifies and located by searching the library catalogue with the subdivision "directories." For example, use "media/directories" to yield results. Another way to locate directories is to search under the subject "associations, institutions, etc.: with directories as the subdivision.

Here is a sampling of directories for communication studies:

AMTEC Directory. Canada: Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada, 1996.

Benn's Media Directory. Tonbridge, Kent: Benn Business Information Services.

Burelle's Media Directory. Livingston, NJ: Burelle's Information Services.

Canadian Directory of New Media in the Cultural Sector. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 1995.

Directory of Federal Government Databases. Ottawa: Treasury Board Secretariat, 1995.

Directory of Periodicals Online. Washington, DC: Federal Document Retrieval, 1987.

Encyclopedia of Associations. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1983

Ethnic Information Resources of the United States. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1983

European Advertising, Marketing and Media Data. London: Euromonitor, 1989.

Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1990.

Indonesian Creative Advertising and Media Directory. Jakarta: BPPP, 1990.

Kennington, Alice E. and Paul Wasserman. Eds. Ethnic Information Sources of the United States. Detroit, Mich., 1983.

Matthews Media Directory. Toronto: Canadian Corporate News, 1997.

The National Directory of Advertising. New York: Oxbridge Communications, 1992.


(3) Encyclopedias - for an overview of the article

Encyclopedias contain information on subjects, normally arranged in alphabetical order. The primary purpose of the encyclopedia is to provide factual information (who, what, when, where, and why) and background information. The encyclopedia will provide a general overview of a subject and will give a sense of direction in exploring a topic. Articles in an encyclopedia are usually written by subject experts. Encyclopedias can be located by searching the library catalogue using the subject with the subdivision "encyclopedia." For example, you may search "communications/encyclopedia" or "media/encyclopedia." The following list provides a sampling of titles of encyclopedias in communication studies.

An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology. Ian MacNeil, ed. London: New York: Routledge, 1990.

Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. USA: Academic Press, 1998.

Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Rock Soul. Irwin Stambler, ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.

Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, eds. London: Routlege, 1996.

Encyclopedia of World Cultures. David Levinson, ed. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1991.

Folklore, Cultural Performances, and Popular Entertainments. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

International Book Publishing: An Encyclopedia. Philip G. Altbach and Edith S. Hoshino, eds. New York: Garland Pub., 1995.

International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. USA: Crowell Collier and MacMillan Inc., 1972.

Oxford Illustrates Encyclopedia. Harry Judge and Anthony Toyne, eds. Oxford [Oxfordshire]; New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

The Encyclopedia of Ethics. Lawrence C. Becker, ed. New York: Garland Pub., 1992.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia. David Crystal, ed. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence. Susan B. Gall and Jerome Kagan, eds. Toronto; Detroit: Gale Research, 1997.

The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. Mike Crawford, ed. New York: Harmony Books, 1992.

The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. James Gunn, ed. New York, NY: Viking, 1988.

The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music. Stanley Said and Alison Latham, eds. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Rovin, Jeff. The Encyclopedia Of Super Villains. New York, NY: Facts on File Publications, 1987.


(4) Handbooks - to locate information and facts quickly

Handbooks are useful for finding information and miscellaneous facts in a field of knowledge. To locate a handbook in a subject area, search the library catalogue using the subdivision "handbooks, manuals, etc." For example, try using "communications/handbooks" or "media/manual."

American Type Culture Collection Media Handbook. Rockville, MD.: American Type Culture Collection, 1984.

Bridging the Gap: A Handbook for Scientists and Journalists on Toxic Pollution Reporting. Canada: Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, 1989.

Film, Video and Pornography in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 1993.

Folk Arts and Crafts in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 1993.

Guidelines for Non-Sexist Writing. Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women 1984.

Handbook of Research for Educational Communications technology: A Project for the Association for Educational Communication and Technology. David H. Jonassen, ed. New York: MacMillan Library Reference USA, 1996.

Keating, Micheal. Covering the Environment: A Handbook on Environmental Journalism. Ottawa: The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, 1993.

Music in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 1993.

Press, Radio, and Television Handbook: Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Melbourne, Vic.: Margaret Gee Media Group Pty.

Recommended Reference Books for Small and Medium Sized Libraries and Media Centers. Bohdan S. Wynar, ed. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1984.

World Media Handbook. New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1990.

Writing in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage 1993.


Relevant Subject Headings - to search a library catalogue

The most obvious terms to search when trying to find resources on communication studies is communications or media. While these terms do produce many results, the results may be too broad when specific material is desired. To narrow a search (limit the results) conduct a search using the exact term that you are looking for in combination with the word "communications" or "media." Searching under a specific author or title can also yield very fruitful searches. IF you locate an item that appears useful, check the subject headings on the full record, and then search under those terms to find more information.


Call Numbers (LC Classification) - to browse the library stacks

HE 7601-8700.9 Telecommunication Industry. Telegraph.

HE 8689-8700.9 Radio and Television Broadcasting.

HE 8701-9715 Telephone.

HE 9719-9721 Artificial Satellite Telecommunications.

ML 3469-3541 Popular Music.

NE Print Media.

NC Drawing, Design. Illustration.

P 87-96 Communication. Mass Media.

P 101-410 Language (General).

P 301-301.5 Style. Composition. Rhetoric.

PN Literacy. History and Collections (General).


Abstracting or Indexing Services - to find a journal article

Periodicals normally contain the most current information on a subject. To locate a journal article, a periodical index is essential. Indexes provide lists of articles in journals, magazines, yearbooks, and proceedings; indexes are usually accessed by author or subject, and provide thorough bibliographic details about the articles (author, title, journal title, volume, date, and pagination). Abstracts are short summaries of the articles (not all indexes provide an abstract). Frequency of publication of indexes and abstracting services is important; a quarterly index will have more recent information than an index published on an annual basis.

Indexes and abstracts may be identified and located by searching the library catalogue under an appropriate subject with the subdivisions "abstracts, abstracting and indexing" or "indexes." For example, search "communications/abstracts," or "television violence/indexes."

Indexes and abstracting tools related to communication studies are listed:

Alberta Communications Network Weekly Index. Alberta: Public Affairs Bureau.

Bibliographies and Indexes in Mass Media and Communications. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Communication Abstracts. Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications.

Current Publications Index. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1986.

Index of Research Publications. Ottawa: Department of Communications 1982.

Media Index. Pleasantville, NY: Media Index, 1979.

Statistics Canada Catalogue. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1988-1997.


Electronic Resources - online library catalogues and electronic abstracting/ indexing services

Computers and computer related technologies have made an impact on the discipline of communication studies. Many indexes and abstracting services are available on an online database or on CD-ROM; many library catalogues are now automated with an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue).

Online computer searching requires a computer with a modem , telecommunications software, and an account with the vendor that provides access to the online database. Online searching is expensive; faculty and librarians can provide more information and advice.

To determine whether an online search is necessary, consider the following questions:

  • What is the content of the database I am considering?
  • How extensive and/or expensive is the database?
  • Are there other databases or printed equivalents that can be examined for less cost?
  • Are there other databases that provide similar results?

Database Directories - to find an appropriate database

Database Directory. Whiteplains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications Inc., 1984/85

Directory of Online Databases. Santa Monica, California: Cudra Associates, 1979-.

Fulltext Resources Online. Needham, MA: BiblioData, July 1994.

Gale Directory of Databases. Detroit: Gale Research, July 1995.

The Espial Canadian Data Base Directory. Toronto: Espial Productions, 1986.


Databases - to do an online literature search

The following list provides a sampling of electronic databases that are useful for researching communication studies. Remember that many electronic databases also have a print equivalent.


Article First

Business ASAP

Canadian Periodical Index (CPI.Q)


Contents First

Current Contents


Extended Academic ASAP

Note: Some of these databases require a password when they are accessed over the Internet. AU students and staff can obtain these passwords by contacting the AU library.


Listservs and Academic Discussions Groups

Listservs or electronic conferences provide a forum through which network users can communicate with each other by exchanging electronic messages. Aside from sharing information, electronic conferences provide a means for making contacts with individuals in the same area. A user must subscribe to the conference before participating in an electronic conference.

Below is a list of electronic conferences in the field of communication studies.

Discussion Name: Gender
: Forum for exploring the role of communication (including media) in how ideas of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and other concepts of gender are negotiated.
Subscription Address:
Archives: Yes,
Contact Address:
Karla - Comserve Staff
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: Airwaves Radio Journal
General discussions of radio media
Subscription Address: - - Gopher:// Address: William Pfeiffer wdp@uiuc.eduSubmission Address:

Discussion Name: CMA-L
Topic: CMA-L is for anyone interested in advising student publications at the college level. All related topics are acceptable.
Subscription Address: listserv@VM.CC.LATECH.EDU
Archives: Yes
Contact Address: Eddie Blick BLICK@VM.CC.LATECH.EDU
Submission Address: CMA-L@VM.CC.LATECH.EDU

Discussion Name: COMSERVE
Topic: Numerous e-conferences pertaining to topics related to study of human communication are available through the services of Some of these are also listed individually on other sections of this directory.
Subscription Address: Send an e-mail message "Show Hotlines" to This will send you a description of the hotlines. To subscribe to a chosen Comserv e-conference, the form of the message should be as follows: Join Hotline name Your Name.
Archives: Yes
Contact Address: Comserve Staff
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: COPYEDITING-L
Topic: Copyediting-L is a list for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing: sticky style issues, newspaper, technical, and other specialized editing, reference books, client relations, Internet resources, electronic editing and software, freelance issues, etc.
Subscription Address:
Archives: Yes
Contact Address: Beth Goelzer Lyons
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: Canprescrit
Topic: The canprescrit list discusses the way the media reports the news in Canada. It aims to discuss any newspaper article or segment in the TV news. It will be limited to people who live in Ontario.
Subscription Address:
Contact Address:

Discussion Name: IRE-L
Topic: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques
Subscription Address:
Archives: Yes, private
Contact Address: Rosemary Armao - John Meyer
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: JOURNET
Topic: E-conference for the discussion of topics of interest to journalists and journalism educators.
Subscription Address:
Archives: Yes
Contact Address: George Frajkor GFRAJKOR@CCS.CARLETON.CA
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: KID.MEDIA
Topic: The Kid Media Mailing List is for communication between people interested in, or involved in, the creation, production and/or consumption of media who's primary target audience is children. kidmedia-d is a digested version.
Subscription Address:
Archives: cd/misc/ - Gopher://radio.aiss.uiuc.edu7070-
Contact Address: William Pfeiffer
Submission Address:

Discussion Name: MAGAZINE
Topic: Magazine is for discussion of journalistic, communicative, economic, and technological issues related to magazine publishing.
Subscription Address:
Archives: No
Contact Address: Comserve Staff
Submission Address:
Discussion Name: METHODS

Topic: Communication research methodology.
Subscription Address:
Archives: No
Contact Address: Comserve Staff
Submission Address:
Discussion Name: McLuhan-list

Topic: The project's mission is to revitalize and update the work of the late media guru. Special emphasis is on all forms of marketing and advertising.
Subscription Address:
Archives: -
Contact Address:
Discussion Name: alt.journalism

Topic: Journalism discussions
Subscription Address: Local Usenet Newsreader
Submission Address: alt.journalism
Discussion Name: alt.journalism.criticism

Topic: Journalism discussions
Subscription Address: Local Usenet Reader
Submission Address: alt.journalism.criticism
Discussion Name: online-mags

Topic: Online-mags is an Internet mailing list for the magazine publishing community — including print magazines exploring online media, as well as publications which are exclusively online.
Subscription Address:
Contact Address: Simon Coles - Hugh Pyle
Submission Address:


Periodicals - key periodicals in communication studies

Periodicals can be identified and located by searching under a subject with the subdivision "periodicals." For example, use "media/periodicals" or "communications/periodicals." A list of suggested titles is included here:

Action Bulletin. Toronto: Media Watch.

Adbusters. Vancouver: Media Foundation, 1989-.

Bulletin (Media Watch). Vancouver: Media Watch, 1987-1993.

Catalogue of Educational Videocassettes. Edmonton: University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension, Educational Media Services, 1992-.

Canadian Journal of Communication. Toronto: Micromedia.

Directory of Periodicals Online. Washington, DC: Federal Document Retrieval, 1987.

Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1990.

Index to Bibliographies and Resource Materials. Minneapolis, Minn.: The Association, 1975.

Media News. Guelph, Ont: AMTEC, 1987.


Based on Steve Schafer's Anthropology Pathfinder
1998©Athabasca University

Updated August 13 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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