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COM 125 (Campus) Dissecting Pop Culture

This guide is a companion to the campus course COM-125

Resources by Topic


Part of looking at a particular company's advertising over time will entail researching the company itself. These guides (below) might help you with that process. Remember to use the Magazine Archives database to see advertisements for your specific company/produce through the decades.

Androgynous/LGBTQI Music Performers

For this topic, in addition to using CREDO and Oxford Music Online to learn about specific performers, you might try researching in the library database below. Remember to use the Magazine Archives and Historical NY Times databases to find out how these androgynous/LGBTQIA+ performers were received at the time they arose on the music scene.

Fake vs Real News

Girl Groups

Find below a link to Billboard's Top 10 Girl Groups, the Oxford Music Online database to look up specific girl groups/bands, and a list of girl groups by decade (examples, this is not an exhaustive list!).


Grunge as a music genre has been defined as "a hard rock style originating in Seattle in the late eighties which mixed heavy metal with influences from punk rock." Examples of groups that have been labeled Grunge bands include: The Melvins, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the Kinks, Mother Love Bone, and Screaming Trees. To research the origins of Grunge and the individual bands, try using the Oxford Music Online database and the CREDO database to begin with, and then use the library multi-search to gather more information about the time period when it originated (the late 1980s - early 1990s) and the impact it had on the music industry and society.

Streaming Music

There have been major legal battles between music publishing houses and early file-sharers and streamers. Check out Grokster v. MGM for example, in the library legal databases below:

TV Families

Generate a list of "TV families" by looking up TV sitcoms lists, or most popular family TV shows, etc. One example is below. Then look up the title of the show (in quotation marks!) in the Multi-search to see articles that pop up about it. Remember to look at the years each show was aired, so that if you intend to do decade comparisons you are sure to have examples of TV families from each decade.

TV News

Since the dawn of humanity, people have communicated news to each other in a variety of ways. Medieval villages had "town criers" who literally went to town centers and yelled out the news of the day. Since the invention of the printing press, news has been written and disseminated. TV News was a leap for the pace at which news travelled. Today, most people are getting their news via Social Media channels. TV News is often dubbed "the mainstream media" and has come under attack more recently. You will need to use a variety of search terms to get at articles about this topic: "TV News"; trust; "mainstream media"; "network news"; journalism; "television broadcasting"; etc.

COM-125 Group Project - Professor Boroshok

The complete assignment document is available below the topics.

Potential Topics

  1. Advertising: Pick an iconic brand/product (but not Coca-Cola) that has been advertised for at least 50 years (Apple is too new), and research/compare its ad campaigns by decade (1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and today). What are the key messages? Who is the target audience? What media was used to deliver the ads? What made the ad effective? What has changed over the years? Is the wording different? What about the visuals? How does this reflect changes in our society?
  2. Androgynous and openly gay acts: From Little Richard to David Bowie to Prince. Who were some of the earliest? Don’t just tell us about their songs. How did society react? How did they change or reinforce society’s attitudes about gender roles? How were they shown in the media? What current artists were influenced? What impact did they have on LGBTQ acceptance? How does today’s media cover such acts? How was their orientation accepted/rejected by fans and critics? Compare reactions through decades: 50s/60s, 70s/80s, today. How did these artists impact today’s society and diversity? Did they affect your views on orientation or gender?
  3. TV Families: Compare how the American family has been depicted on TV from the 1950s to today. Is the portrayal accurate? Why or why not? Does the TV depiction influence “real” families? How did TV shows influence news coverage of families? How did the media define family back then? How about now? As you grew up, what did you think of your own family compared to TV families? What TV family do you wish you could have been part of?
  4. Motown: How it gave a “voice” to black musicians and told the story of its era and inner-city struggles. What’s the connection to early blues, and today’s rap artists? Do we still have “black” and “white” music? How and why do today’s listeners relate to musicians? How were diverse artists previously represented and depicted in the media? Compare it to media today.
  5. Girl groups – from the 50s to today: Who were they? How were they marketed? What is/was their effect on the feminist movement and change attitudes? Evolution of women in their songs. Did these groups advance how women get depicted in media? Looks vs. talent. Are there musical #MeToo moments? How does today’s media react to outspoken female artists?
  6. Media bias then and now: Compare the era of “yellow journalism” and publisher wars (Hearst vs Gannett etc.) to biased or fake news today. Can Fox and MSNBC call themselves objective? Explain the concepts of advertorial and opinion disguised as fact. Does the public prefer news to be framed and offer perspective rather than developing their own?
  7. The role of television news: What was it in the 50s, 60s, and 70s compared to today? Discuss the “Fourth Estate” role of journalism. How did our culture get from Walter Cronkite being “the most trusted man in America” to a President calling the media “the enemy of the people?” Is media bias real? Is it new? What can people do to be better informed? How do they know what sources to trust?
  8. Latino artists in the U.S.: Trace the media coverage and acceptance and progress from Richie Valens’ hidden ethnicity to Carlos Santana and Enrique Iglesias embracing theirs. Role models, and Latino influence on music. Are Latinos more accepted into American culture because of these artists? Is there any obvious media bias for/against them today?
  9. Streaming Music: How has streaming music impacted the broadcast industry and how artists support their music releases? Illegal peer-to-peer downloads gave way to legal streaming from Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc. We don’t need a lesson on the history of Napster or LimeWire. How has streaming changed touring and concerts? Has it affected whether people become professional musicians? Any impact on top music schools, such as Julliard and Berklee College of Music? What might the future hold for streaming? Does the public understand or /or have any regard for copyright laws?
  10. Protest Songs: The history, influences, best known, and effectiveness. Discuss Viet Nam protest songs, racism, economic inequality, and ecology as themes. Is rap music the new protest song? Include the effect of political activism on musicians and their careers (Pete Seeger, Dixie Chicks, Rage Against the Machine, Ted Nugent). How are protest songs used today, and why? Are the effective? How does mainstream media react? What media bias exists when an artist sings or speaks out on an issue now?
  11.  “Fake” news vs. “real” news: How are they defined, and by whom? How do we educate people to be better consumers of the news? What should we believe vs. disregard, and why? Should news be objective, or should it offer interpretation, and why? How do we get people in their late teens to late 20s to follow the news? How have you personally been impacted by fake news? How do you know what news sources to trust?
  12. Original Topic: Your team is welcome to propose an alternative topic. To be approved, your topic must be connected to the class, be rigorous, and should consist of extensive research that you are truly interested in.

Researching Your COM-125 Topic

Start with CREDO (Database)

Credo is a database of "tertiary sources" which include resources like specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries. These give you a good OVERVIEW of your topic, important events, people, theories, dates, etc. to consider. These are not considered "scholarly" sources in that they are not research studies or articles published in scholarly journals. They are a place to begin your research so that you know what to include as you progress through your research process.

Oxford Music Online (Database)

COM-125 topics having to do with music or musicians might have resources in Oxford Music Online database. For examples, girl groups/bands or androgynous or openly gay artists/groups can be looked up by name and this database will provide biographies of the group and related topics listed beneath the entry to click on.

The Multi-Search

Begin with the Multi-Search (the long search box on the library home page). This searches about half the content to which the library subscribes. 

About this Search  |  Search Tips

Search Tips

Remember searching in the databases is not like searching in Google! There are specific ways to tell the search engine what you want it to look for. It doesn't have Google algorithms to look for synonyms of the words you type and and it won't correct your spelling!

Search Tricks:
  1. Use the "Boolean Operators" AND, OR, NOT between your keywords... and DO CAPITALIZE THEM! 
    • AND says to find both words
    • OR says to find either word
    • NOT says to omit that word in the results list
  2. If you are searching for a phrase (2 or more words) like "Social Media" be sure to put the words in quotation marks so the search engine only brings up results with the phrase "Social Media" and not all the results with either word anywhere in them.
  3. When you want the search engine to bring up results with all variations of a word, use an asterisk (*) at the end of the base or "trunk" of the word. For example: the search term cultur* will search for culture, cultural, culturalization, cultures, etc.
Search Limiters:

In the left margin of your results list you will find a list of ways to narrow your results.

  1. Click "Peer-reviewed (Scholarly)" to get only results from scholarly sources
  2. Drag the Publication Date bar to get results from certain time periods (most recent, a particular decade, etc.)
  3. Click "Limit by Subject Term" to narrow your results list to those ABOUT certain topics
Search Tools:
  1. Click on the magnifying glass on paper icon to the right of any title to see an abstract (summary) of that article or source
  2. Click on "ProQuest Central" box in the right hand margin to have your search term put into the ProQuest databases and get a whole new list of results (in a new tab too!)
  3. Click on PDF Full-Text, HTML Full-Text, Full Text Finder, Link to Full Text, etc. beneath the search result to be taken to the actual article, book, video, etc.
  4. After you click on any title, click on the "Cite" icon in the right margin to see citations for that source in various formats

Magazine Archives (Database)

The EBSCO Magazine Archive includes the following magazines from the date they began publishing through 2000: Forbes, Fortune, Life, Sport Illustrated, and Time.

Once you get to the Magazines Archives interface, here are steps to just look at advertisements from various time periods:

  • Click on Advanced Search beneath the search box
  • Under the large "Search Options" box, scroll down to "Limit Your Results"
  • Under "Document Type" scroll down the drop down menu to click on "Advertisements"
  • Scroll back to the top of the page and type your company or product name or product type into the search box and click the Search button
  • When the results list comes up, click the "Relevance" tab and select "Date Oldest" to view the results from oldest to newest to cover each decade required by your assignment
  • Remember to click on the "PDF Full Text" beneath any result in the list to see the actual advertisement
  • EX: Ford Motor Company advertisements from 1924-2000
  • EX: Camel cigarette advertisements from 1933-2000

You may limit to other types of documents such as "Editorial" or "Opinion" to get a sense of public perceptions about certain topics at that time in history.

New York Times (Historical) - ProQuest

The New York Times (Historical) database includes articles published in the New York Times beginning in 1863 through to 2014. Here is where you can see how people were reacting at a particular time in history to popular music of the day, TV news, TV shows, Motown, Advertisements, Girl bands, LGBTQI performers, Latinx artists, Protest Music, etc.

Statista (Database)

Statista is a database of statistics available as bar and line graphs, tables and infographics. This is a great place to look at Social Media platforms popularity, growth and finances; Streaming Music platforms; Advertising expenditures; etc. This includes popular perceptions about all kinds of topics as well as financial or quantitative data.

Google Scholar

It's true that you can find some high-quality, scholarly articles online. If you're going to search online for articles, make sure to evaluate your sources thoroughly. Check out our Google Like a Librarian guide for search tips or ask a librarian ( if you need more help. BEFORE you search in Google Scholar be sure to connect Scholar to the library databases on your computer.

Google Scholar Search

Citing Your Sources

Professor Boroshok uses a modified AP (Associated Press) Style This link opens in a new window for citing sources for his COM130 class as follows:

A source needs to be cited by providing Author, Date, Title, Name of source, and a current (ideally permanent) hyperlink.

When you use library resources you may use the FAQs below to locate permalinks or "stable URLs" for your sources. Readers outside SNHU will not be able to access these resources as they are "proprietary" meaning that SNHU pays for them through subscriptions so that SNHU students/staff/faculty may access them, which is why they are not open to the public. 

Presenting Your Research

Timeline JS

Consider using free timeline software to present your research, especially if your topic involves demonstrating different musical groups, or advertisements or other items over time, such as through the decades of the past century. TimelineJS is an easy-to-use free application that allows you to integrate images, text, video, etc. into the timeline for presentation in a website type format.