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ENGL 102 - Orme: Researching Visual Culture

Use this Research Guide when searching for information on visual culture and photography.


Researching Visual Culture
and Photography


book cover


Note:  The book Photography Changes Everything is available at the Library Check Out Desk for in-library use.

The purpose of this research guide is to help students in Scott Orme's ENGL 102 class find credible and college-level information sources.  This guide will suggest useful sources, search techniques and evaluation methods for researching photography and visual culture.

When to Ask a Librarian for Help

When you're not sure how to select the best library databases for your topic.

When you need help identifying search words

When you aren't sure if your source is sufficiently credible and academic for the assignment

When you've found an interesting citation but can't find the full text

When you've spent a lot of time searching without good results

When you're feeling frustrated

Research help

Questions about research, citation, login, or other?

 Contact a librarian any time!

Recommended Sources and Searching Tips


Periodicals - magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals

Reference Books - including scholarly encyclopedias


Controversial Topics

  • CQ Researcher - reports providing in-depth, unbiased coverage of political and social issues
  • Opposing Viewpoints - reference, news, magazine, and journal articles as well as statistics, videos, audio clips and recommended websites providing pro and con coverage of controversial political and social issues


  • Artstor - library of images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences
  • Art & Architecture Source - articles from magazines and journals, plus a collection of art reference books



  • As you begin your research think about the search words you'll use.  For example, when searching for information on "visual culture" you might also try "visual communication" or "mass media."  Keep a list of your search words and add to it as you find new words.
  • When searching, use quotation marks to keep phrases together:  "visual perception'", "self-portraits", "Occupy Wall Street,"
  • If you have too many results when using the library research databases try changing the search fields.  Here's an example from Academic Search Complete that shows the search fields changed to Subject Terms.  In other words, retrieved articles must really be about that subject, rather than just mentioning the words in a minor way.

Academic Search Complete search example

Evaluating information and domain searching

WWW Test - ask these questions when determining whether a source is reliable, especially when Googling.

  • Who's the author?  Is the author an expert?
  • What's the nature of the information?  Is it objective or biased?  Is it based on careful research?
  • When was it written?  Is it appropriately up-to-date?

Note:  Evaluating information can be more complicated than answering these simple questions. If you need help thinking through the evaluation process, ask a librarian or your instructor.

Domain Searching

Try limiting your Google search to a particular domain (such as .edu or .gov which are restricted domains). You may find more reliable information.  Here are a couple of search examples:

"visual communication" and "climate change"

"visual culture" and selfie

Evaluating Sources for Credibility - North Carolina State University Libraries (3:15)