Monday, September 07, 2009

Putting CommTopics Away

After three-and-a-half years, I've decided to discontinue the CommTopics blog.

I started it as a way to share information with Communication students and faculty and Boston College. It has included new resources, research tips, and communication-related items in the news. But it never developed a wide readership -- a lesson for me, perhaps, about students' communication habits and the types of information that appeal to them.

I'll continue to post information in my Books & Bytes column in Major Mail, the Communication Department's weekly e-newsletter. I will also maintain and add to the collection of online communication research guides. And, of course, I will continue to be available for individual research help at any time.

Thanks to all those who have followed CommTopics

- Ken.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NEW: E-Books in Communication Studies

The following communication books are now available as online e-books via the Boston College Libraries.
One BC person at a time can use any one of these books, which the library purchases from an e-book publisher called eBrary. The books can be read online without any special software, but an easy-to-install eBrary Reader plug-in is required to print or cut and paste from the e-books. (On Windows Vista machines, the plug-in works with Internet Explorer only.)

This is a new type of resource for the library. Tell me what you think and please let me know about any problems with using the online books.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Messages with a Mission, Embedded in TV Shows

The New York Times reports how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is expanding its efforts as "a behind-the-scenes influencer of public attitudes...helping to shape story lines and insert messages into popular entertainment..." The Foundation, according to the Times, has helped put messages about H.I.V. prevention, surgical safety and the spread of infectious diseases into such shows as “ER,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Private Practice.”

Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom, the parent company of MTV and its sister networks VH1, Nickelodeon and BET. It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies. Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Social Sciences Quick Search

A new form added to several online communication research guides lets you search for articles directly from the guide without having to first click on the name of a database.

Using this form – labeled Social Sciences Quick Search –you can enter search terms and look for results at once in several key CSA Illumina databases including Communication Abstracts, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, PAIS, ERIC, and others.

Results, with abstracts, will then appear in the familiar CSA Illumnia interface, including the FindIt button for locating the full articles.
The form also includes a link to the Advanced Search screen, which offers options for more defined and precise searching in this same group of databases.

The new form can be found in the following guides:
Interpersonal Communication
CO 372: Mass Communication Theory
CO 451: Gender Roles & Communication
CO 463: Media & Popular Culture

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Online Highlight: Speeches of the American Presidents

The full texts of 200 major speeches by U.S. presidents, from George Washington through the first inauguration of George W. Bush, are available online for BC researchers through the database Biography Reference Bank Select.

Each speech is prefaced by a description of the date, place and circumstances of its composition and delivery. In addition, the speaking style of each president is described and his use of public address as an instrument of power is evaluated.

Here, for example, is an excerpt from the description of John Adams’ speaking style:

During his years with the Continental Congress, Adams was known, in the words of a col¬league, as a “most sensible and forceful speaker.” Jefferson said of him that he “was not graceful nor eloquent, nor remarkably fluent, but he came out occasionally with a power of thought and expression that moved us from our seats.” Short and stout, often moody and irascible, he did not have the physical presence of a great orator; but so attractive was the display of his intellectual powers that when he spoke, according to another colleague, his listeners “fancied an angel was let down from heaven to illumine the Congress.” By the time of Adams’s election to the presi¬dency, when he was 61, he was afflicted with palsy and had lost most of his teeth, so that he rarely spoke in public.

To acccess a president’s entry, look up the president by name in the database, then click on the hotlinked name. There will be a link along the left side of the screen to the Speeches of the American Presidents pages for that president.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Google Scholar On and Off Campus

Google Scholar is Google’s way of letting your search for scholarly publications online without bringing up all of the non-academic sources that come up in a regular Google search.

It’s not as refined a search tool as the many databases the BC Libraries make available to you, and it will miss many things that those databases find. But, used in conjunction with – not instead of – these databases, Google Scholar can be one more tool in your communication research toolkit.

It’s especially useful for hard-to-find terms because it searches the full text of many articles. But it can be frustrating when searching for more common terms because there is little distinction between articles that simply mention the term and those that are really about that topic. So use it carefully.

Here is one very important thing to keep in mind:

If you find an article via Google Scholar and click on the title, it may not let you have it without a password, even if BC has a subscription to the publication online or in print. Look for the FindIt@BC link instead to get the article via the Libraries subscription.
If you’re on campus, the FindIt link will appear automatically (if BC subscribes). Off-campus, you have to let Google Scholar know you’re affiliated with BC.

Here’s how:
  1. Click on Scholar Preferences next to the Google Scholar search box.
  2. Enter boston college in the Library Links box and hit the Find Library button.
  3. Check off the box next to “Boston College Libraries - FindIt@BC”
  4. Hit the Save Preferences button at the bottom of the page.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NY Times: Why Television Still Shines in a World of Screens

"SUBSCRIBERS to print newspapers have gone missing, as everyone knows. Book publishers are also wondering where readers have disappeared to.

And yet television stands out as the one old-media business with surprising resilience. Though we are spending a record amount of time online, including a record amount of time watching video, we are also watching record amounts of very old-fashioned television, according to Nielsen Media Research."

Read the full article