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COMM 100 Oral Communications Class Guide

Finding Your Article

The article you select for your At the Table Conversations has to be from one of two sources: the New York Times or

To create a free account for full access to the NY Times using your Bridgewater College sign-on follow these steps: 

  1. Follow this link to the New York Times institutional subscription page
  2. Search for "Bridgewater College"
  3. Select "Create Account"
  4. Input your email address and create a password
  5. Check your email to confirm your account
  6. After clicking the link from the NY Times in your email, select "Student" and your graduating year
  7. Choose "Get Started" and select the types of emails you would like to receive in your inbox from the NY Times (if any)
  8. Peruse the Times!

Click this link to access or review the site below:


Focusing Your Topic

Now that you've selected a substantive article from the NY Times or NPR, you can determine a unique aspect of that subject in which to specialize your research. To do this:

  • Review your article: what important topics have been brought up in the text that you can expand on?
    • For example, in this NY Times article about the Beirut explosion, you can choose to expand on: government in Beirut, anti-government sentiments, ammonium nitrate combustibility, disaster response teams, and much more.
    • What you choose to expand on is completely up to you and depends upon what interests you most.
  • Try mind-mapping. After looking through the article, pick out all the topics that you think are related to the topic you've selected. Write down the title of the article in the middle and branch off any pertinent topics from the title. See what branches you can build from all of your topics to help you decide which topic can be expanded on more fully.

Once you've decided on a topic, you'll want to start formulating keywords.

Keyword Searching

Keywords are going the terms you will use to search for information. Just typing in your entire topic sentence is not an efficient way to search. Here are some tips for using keywords effectively.

If you are looking for editorials or opinions articles on a topic, include the format in your keywords

Keywords: global warming, editorial

Condense your topic down to the 3 or 4 essential terms. 

Example Topic: "Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and other bands introduced Grunge music to popular audiences and changed rock music in the late 80s early 90s."

Keywords: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Grunge, popular music

Consider synonyms or alternate words to describe your term

Example: "England used Privateers in the New World in order to harass Spain without committing official navy vessels."

Keywords: England, Great Britain, British, Privateers, Pirates, New World, Caribbean, Atlantic


Keep track of the terms and indicate which ones are most successful. This will help you when you go from searching one type of resource to another.

The Basics of Database Searching

In most databases you can narrow down your results by subject area, type of material, or date published. Date published is especially important in for current event topics, like the coronavirus.

In addition, most databases have some built in tools for more precise searching. Try some of these:

Boolean searching (AND, OR, NOT):

These three operators allow you to combine search terms and search more efficiently 

  • AND will produce results that contain BOTH terms (e.g. AIDS AND Africa)
  • OR generates results that contain EITHER term (e.g. AIDS OR Africa)
  • NOT results will include the first terms, but not the second (AIDS NOT Africa)

The first example will provide only articles that contain AIDS and Africa in them, which helps to narrow the focus of your search. The second brings up articles with either AIDS or Africa but not necessarily both (you might end up with articles about cheetahs). This can be useful if you topic has multiple terms that could describe it. 

The third removes Africa from the results and only shows those AIDS articles that don't use the term Africa at all. Use care when using NOT as an operator. In the above example our intent may have been articles that focus on AIDS in other parts of the world, but an article about AIDS in the US that has the sentence: "AIDS was first discovered in Africa" will not show up!


Symbols like *, ?, or ! may be used at the end of words or in the middle of words so that you can search all their different variances at once.

For example, astro* can search for astronomy, astronomer, astronaut all at the same time. Also col!r might allow you to search for the term with its American (color) and British (colour) spelling.

Wildcards differ between the databases, but their "help" documentation will provide you a list and their meanings.

Quotation Marks:

Quotation marks will isolate a phrase. For example, "natural selection" results in resources that contain only that specific phrase. If you, instead, searched simply for natural selection, the results would be any resources that contain the word "natural," the word "selection," and the phrase natural selection. Using phrase searching ensures that you are searching for exactly what you need.

Subject or Thesaurus Terms:

Often databases utilize a standard list of terms to describe articles, so all the material on a specific topic has the same subject terms, and sits in the same box. For example a database may assign the subject term "Moving picture" to articles that use the terms "movies," "films," or "cinema" in their full text. Once you know what term they used, you can search by subject and bring up ALL of the information on a topic. It can help you save time so you aren't constantly searching for alternate terms or synonyms. Most databases give you the option to search or browse through their subject terms before you search.

Field Searching:

Databases store information in separate fields. Searching for Edgar Allan Poe in the Author Field will give you different results than if you search for him in the Subject field.

Databases organize information into fields like an Excel or Access datasheet. Searching for Poe in the author field will only bring up articles that he has wrote. Searching in the subject field brings up all the articles about him. Below is an example of some of the different fields you might see.


EBSCO Database Search Tools

If you need some additional help with searching through Academic Search Complete (or any of the other EBSCO databases that the library subscribes to), watch this video: