Media Studies

What is media?

Media as plural of Medium: 

  • An intermediate agency, instrument, or channel. 
  • A means or channel of communication or expression
  • Any physical material (as tape, disk, paper, etc.) used for recording or reproducing data, images, or sound.

Media / Mass Media:

  • main means of mass communication (esp. newspapers, radio, and television, regarded collectively).
  • Reporters, journalists, etc., working for organizations engaged in such communication. 

(from OED oxford english dictionary March 2021


Scholarly Sources

There is NO single or best search engine (we call them "databases"). Each search engine / database has its own content, features, and ways of searching. Furthermore, different formats/genres require different search methods: e.g. books vs. articles (academic, trade, popular) vs. films vs. audio vs. newspapers vs. primary sources vs. art works, etc. 

"Search the Library" is a good start. Enter a known title or some keywords and let it decide how to search and display. Or use "advanced search" to take control over your search. e.g. use specific fields, AND, OR, "quotation marks", wildcards and truncation, proximity.

To limit mostly to books in our library system, click "catalogue only" on the main page or University of Alberta Library under the Databases facets in the left menu on results pages. This also includes journal titles we subscribe to, some audio/visual like films and musics (but not all), maps, and other formats we have in our collection.

Use metadata (e.g. subject terms, author) hyperlink to find similar items, or incorporate them into your keyword searches 

Some advanced search hints  --> 

  • "mass media" (use quotation marks around multi-word phrases)
  • "mass media" AND history 
  • "mass media" AND philosophy
  • (photograph OR photography) AND "social aspects"
  • other terms to try: sound, "motion pictures", phonograph, microfilms
  • additional limits:
    • AND (history OR historiography)
    • AND (philosophy OR theory OR theoretical)
    • AND (history OR historiography OR "social aspects" OR philosophy OR theory OR theoretical)
    • AND sources [this often means "primary source']
    • AND "equipment and supplies"
    • AND "recording and reproducing"
  • Use post-search facets: e.g. publication format/type, publication year


Many database search engines include scholarly articles.

Here are some good starting places. Find more: subject guides or find databases.

Discipline Specific search engines

Multi-disciplinary/genre/format search engines

Trade Publications

Trade publications are not considered scholarly but are a great sources for scholarly work. You can often find information on things like film studios, production, distribution, technology developments, legal issues like censorship, reviews, ad even plot summaries for films that have been lost. Not all publications are searchable in databases, so you may have to scan through print or microfilm copies 

Film and Cinema 

Media Formats: search terms and ideas scholarly and primary sources

Search term suggestions and other ideas for locating sources on specific media formats:


  • Search terms: oral tradition, oral history, transmission of text, oral communication, language and culture


  • Search terms: paper, ink, writing implements, codex, vellum


  • Search terms: incunabula, moveable type, linotype, lithograph

Sound Recording

  • Search terms: analog OR analogue, phonograph, LP, vinyl, magnetic tape, wax cylinder, wire, digital music players, cassette tape recorders, portable radios, sound recordings, sound studios, recording and reproducing


  • Search terms: television, TV, "television broadcasting" | radio, "radio broadcasting", "portable radios" | telegraph, telegraphy | fax, "facsimile transmission", "fax machines"

Visual Recording

  • Search terms: video, video tape recorder, VHS, betamax | photograph, photography, daguerrotype | motion picture, feature films, cinema, film, cinematography | holography

Digital media

  • Search terms: digitization, internet, computers, games, video games, interactive gaming