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INTR 100

Finding Sources to Support Pop Culture Analysis & the Research Essay

Learning Outcomes

In this library session, you will work towards being able to:

  • Describe and explore a range of broad ideas and subtopics, narrowing to a manageable topic for your annotated bibliography and research paper

  • Search effectively and efficiently for relevant information using search engines and library search tools

  • Evaluate information sources critically and incorporate information into your understanding of a topic

  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose -- strengthening your research ideas or claim

  • Understand economic, legal, and social issues related to the use of information; access and use information ethically and legally


From your research essay assignment:

This assignment asks to frame a 'how' research question, identify 5 academic sources (books or articles written by named academics and published by reputable university presses --no Wikipedia) and do an annotated bibliography...

The primary goal of this assignment is to be able to use the library catalogue and databases to find appropriate scholarly sources that are relevant for your research essay. Secondary goals include learning how to summarize these sources in a way that relates them to your question. 

Remember that you are developing a tentative approach to your Research Essay assignment. We suggest that you begin by developing key terms about your topic. See what sources you can find and then begin to narrow your search by adding other key terms that emphasize your specific interest.  

Explore the Topic

for example:

key word work sheet
What's a kit-cat klock?

from your assignment:

2.    List 3 key terms that you might use to search for your topic. Try to get a range of generality. For instance, if you are interested in Harry Potter, you could list “Harry Potter” or Rowling, but you could also list more general terms such as “Children’s fiction” or fantasy or magic, and you might identify some narrower terms to indicate a specific interest, such as “Harry Potter fan fiction.” Or say you are interested in “horror films,”  you could list this as one of your terms, but you could also list “the pleasure of horror films,” and, more specifically, “the popular appeal of Zombie films.”
Key terms:

1._____________________ 2._____________________ 3._______________________


4. List (2 or 3)  terms associated with the reading in Storey that you think may help you analyze your topic. These could be the names of theorists in Storey or theoretical terms, such as “race,” “gender,” “feminism”, “queer theory,” “psychoanalyis,” etc. or more specific terms such as Williams’ “structure of feeling,” Marx’s “base and superstructure,” Althusser’s “symptomatic reading,” Gramsci’s “hegemony,” Freud’s “id, ego and superego”, Lacan’s notion of “lack”, Mulvey’s notion of “scopophelia and the male gaze” etc. 

Theorists or Theoretical Terms:

1. _____________________ 2. ____________________ 3. _______________________

Scholarly & Popular Sources Compared: A Field Guide

  • Common characteristics of scholarly and popular articles, found in the linked 'field guide' can help to identify what you've found if you're in doubt
  • Consider these characteristics critically; this is not a checklist!



Studies in Popular Culture

Canadian Literature


Webster, Elaine. "Red Shoes: Linking Fashion and Myth." Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, vol. 7, no. 2, 2009, pp. 164-177. doi:10.2752/175183509X460074.




Collins, Lauren. "Sole Mate: Christian Louboutin and the psychology of shoes." The New Yorker, vol. 87, Condé Nast Publications, Inc, New York, 2011.

Why discern between scholarly and popular?

  • What is peer review? 
  • What does scholarly publishing represent?

Search Strategies


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Key words & concepts 

Consider and look for alternate words and terms to describe the topic, and think about the relationships among them. For example, in relation to your topic can they be seen as


Combine concepts, including syntax ("quotation marks for phrases" ; use OR to create a combined list of synonyms)

("consumer goods") (nostalgia OR vintage OR classic)
("red shoes" OR "red dancing shoes" OR "scarlet slippers") (feminism OR feminist)


  1. Go to to use the LibrarySearch box and tab to start your search.
  2. Find at least one article and/or book that you think you can use for your essay assignment.
  3. Add the citations for your items to the LibrarySearch folder.
  4. Open the LibrarySearch folder and change your citations to MLA or APA style.  
  5. Click on the “Email” link. Before sending the email to yourself, please answer these questions in the “Message” box, to remind yourself about helpful elements of your research process:
  • What did you search for – words and limiters? Perhaps copy this info from your results screen.
  • Why did you choose your item(s)? 
  • How do you know your choice is scholarly or otherwise reputable?
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