Main Library

Fri7:30 am - 5:00 pm

Reference Desk

Fri10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Digital Fabrication Lab

Fri10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection

Fri8:00 am - 4:00 pm

NDSU Archives

Fri8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Business Learning Center

Fri7:30 am - 4:00 pm *

Klai Juba Wald Architectural Studies Library

Mon12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

P. N. Haakenson Health Sciences Library

Fri8:00 am - 4:00 pm

NDSU Nursing at Sanford Health Library

Mon7:30 am - 4:00 pm *
Home Research Guides Communication (COMM) 321: Introduction to Communication Theory

Communication (COMM) 321: Introduction to Communication Theory

Determine Source Type

For your COMM 321 Theory Paper Assignment, you are required to include a minimum of five (5) scholarly (academic) articles that
report new data/findings and utilize or apply your chosen theory.

It can often be tricky to determine if a source is scholarly (academic) or non-academic.

Use the questions below to guide you through the evaluation process and help you identify if your sources are scholarly (academic) or non-academic.


Scholarly (academic) sources, and specifically the ones you will include in your assignment for this course, must report new data/findings; these are called research articles.

A good first step to identify if an article is a research article is to read the Abstract or Summary:

  • Does the author mention terms like study, observation, analysis, data, participants, etc.?
  • Does the author discuss the methods used in their research?

You can also skim the headings used in the paper:

  • Is there a Methods or Methodology section?
  • Is there a Discussion or Results section?

Often, 'yes' answers to these questions mean you have identified a research article.

But if you do have questions please do not hesitate to contact me (Jylisa Doney) or your instructor (Jenna Currie-Mueller).

Scholarly (academic) sources are often written for an academic audience, such as students, scholars, researchers, faculty, etc.

In comparison, non-academic sources are written more for the general public.

The intended audience for a source also changes the type of language used by the author.

Scholarly (academic) sources may contain technical or discipline-specific language (such as names of theories, research methods, or jargon) and overall, the language used in the article may be much more formal.

In contrast, non-academic sources, since they are usually written for a general audience, tend to use more informal language and terms.

Many scholarly (academic) sources are also peer-reviewed.

This means that other authors or scholars in the specific field or discipline reviewed or commented on the article prior to its publication.

Peer-reviewed sources can add an extra layer of authority to the discussions and arguments in your theory paper assignment.

Databases as well as the journals' websites can help you determine if scholarly (academic) sources are peer-reviewed.

In comparison, non-academic sources are usually not peer-reviewed prior to publication, but they may be edited or proofread.

Scholarly (academic) sources are usually written by individuals who are associated with a college or university, a research organization, or a government agency.

When identifying scholarly (academic) sources for your paper, take a look at where the author works to get a better idea about:

  • Who they are
  • Their knowledge about the article's topic.

Search in Library Databases

Most databases require precision in the way you create your searches.

Below are the most common commands used in databases with examples of how to use them.


Use the word AND (in capital letters) to narrow your search by combining search terms.

Example : dialectics AND openness

Use the word OR (in capital letters) to expand your search. This is useful when your search term has one or more synonyms.

Example : colleague OR coworker

Use “quotation marks” to tell a database that you want to search for a phrase instead of the individual search terms.

Example : "relational dialectics"

Use an asterisk * at the end of a word to get the database to search for alternative word endings.

Example : friend* searches for friend, friends, friendly, friendship

Use (parentheses) to create more complex search strings. Parentheses group terms together.

Example : "relational dialectics" AND (colleague OR coworker)

With these basic commands, there are many possibilities to mix and match to get different results.

Example : "relational dialectics" AND friend* AND (colleague OR coworker)

Find Scholarly (Academic) Sources

The databases below were chosen because they are relevant to the communication discipline and include scholarly (academic) sources.

When searching in these databases, you can limit your results to 'Peer-Reviewed' sources as well as 'Academic Journals'.

If we don't have full-text access to a source, please use Interlibrary Loan (tutorial link) to request a free copy of the PDF.


Get Help

Social Sciences Librarian
Main Library 118A