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COM 113 Interpersonal Communication: Researching Your Topic

A step-by-step guide to choosing a topic, finding resources, and writing research papers in the proper citation format for COM 113.

Database Searching

Often, one of the most effective ways of attaining the most current and authoritative information on a topic is by consulting KVCC Libraries' online article databases. These databases provide access to the most recent studies, scholarship, and reports from subscription-based academic and trade journals, magazines, and news sources. In many cases, you would be required to pay to view these sources if you were to search them online. 

To access our databases by topic area or alphabetically by name, visit the KVCC Libraries homepage and click the Articles & Research Databases button below the ValleyCat search window.


Once you have clicked on the link for Articles and Databases, it might be most useful to start with the general databases. The link will be at the top of the page. ProQuest Central and Academic Search Complete are two of the more commonly used. These two databases have different interfaces but most of the same tools. Don't be afraid to play around and see what they have to offer. 

Another useful database is Opposing Viewpoints in Context mentioned in the "Choosing Your Topic" tab. Under each topic is a brief encyclopedic summary and links to charts, academic journals, ebooks, magazines, newspapers, and opinion pieces called viewpoints. 

Recommended Databases

Tips for Searching the Databases

Tips for Searching the Databases


  • Try using advanced search 
  • Spelling counts! The database will not not correct your spelling.
  • Search for phrases within quotation marks. Quotation marks allow the database to search for your keywords as one whole phrase instead of searching for every mention of each individual word. Example: adolescents and "substance abuse" will search for "substance abuse" together rather than substance and abuse. 

Sorting through Results:

  • Use the limiters on the left side of the page to narrow down the results.
  • Make sure the link for "Full-Text" is checked or you may only have access to the summary or abstract. 
  • If you need only scholarly sources, make sure you have "Peer-Reviewed" selected or limit to only scholarly journals. 
  • Limit by language, year, location, or subject to help reduce your search results.
  • If you scroll down to the subject session of the limiters, subject headings will be suggested for you. 
  • 188,000 or a similar number of results is far too many. You need to limit your results or narrow your topic.
  • 5 results is most likely too few unless they are exactly the articles you need for your project.
  • You can save your articles, download some as a PDF, email the links, or receive the automated citation for the article.
  • Make sure the citation is set to the style guide you are using and proofread it. Computers are not always right. 
  • Forget what keywords worked for you? There is usually a tool for checking your search history.     
  • If you like a particular article, look to the side for links to similar articles.                                                       

What is a Journal?

So What Is a Professional or Academic Journal? 
  • A journal acts as a sort of professional magazine for scholarly research studies
  • Written by experts in the field with advanced degrees
  • Articles are usually quite long
  • Articles or studies are subject to peer review - this means other experts evaluate the research before publication
  • Written specifically for other experts, researchers, scholars, and students
  • Articles include footnotes and bibliographies
  • Little or no advertising, photos, or graphics that are not relevant to the text

Examples: American Journal of Psychology, Business Ethics Quarterly, The Philosophical Review

Tips for Searching ValleyCat (The Library Catalog)

Tips for searching for Books and E-Books in ValleyCat
  • Try advanced search
  • Use the limiters on the left to narrow to e-book only. 
  • Limit to full-text, open access, by publication year, or by subject
  • E-books typically populate first in your results followed by print books and articles. 

Examples of Communications E-Books in ValleyCat