Communication Abstracts


Communication Abstracts covers approximately 130 of the most important scholarly journals about communication. Coverage of mass communication topics (journalism, broadcasting, advertising, plus technological, legal and business aspects of mass communication) predominates, but you will also find material about interpersonal communication in various social and cultural settings, and material about rhetoric and oratory. Coverage of all kinds of religious communication is rather limited. For example, as of 9/2006, a search for "public speaking" matches over 900 but "sermon*" matches only around 50 records, and "preach*" brings up about 100. "Broadcasting" retrieves over 3200 records, but "broadcasting and (religio* or christian* or church*)" retrieves only 85. In most cases coverage begins with vol. 1 of the journal, so some articles cited are as much as 100 years old. ComAbs does not index book reviews.


There is little difference between basic and advanced search screens. We suggest you use the advanced screen.

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Figure 1000: Advanced Search Screen

The search engine supports the familiar logical operators (and, or, not), word truncation (*), and grouping of terms in parentheses. So a search for religious journalism might look like this:
journalism and (religio* or christ* or theol*)

You may use the slash operator /n/ (i.e., slash, a number, slash) to designate a proximity search. For example,
journalism /5/ religion
matches journalism within five words of religion. You can mix this proximity operator with logical operators if you wish. For example, a search for
journalism /5/ (religio* or christ* or theol*)
matches journalism within 5 words of (religio* or christ* or theol*).

The default operator is exact phrase, so a search with no explicit operator like
public speaking
will match those exact words, adjacent, in that order.

There are two unusual search features that warrant more detailed explanation.

  1. First, note the "Allow synonyms" feature toward the bottom of the search form. Enter the term "movie," and it will also search for the synonym "cinema."
    Allow synonyms image
    In theory this kind of feature could be very helpful. The actual operation of the feature is not well documented, and it appears to be poorly implemented. Experimentation suggests synonyms are only available for a small number of search terms. The system does not tell you when synonyms are available, and it does not tell you what synonyms have been used in a search. Nevertheless, we suggest you normally select "Allow synonyms". Why? At present (9/2006) the "do not allow synonyms" option has a bug which yields inaccurate results in searches with multiple terms. Note also the basic search screen always uses the synonym feature when synonyms are available. There is no way to override this feature at the basic search screen when it lowers precision. That is one reason it is better to use the advanced screen for all searches.
  2. Second, you may use a tilda (~) to match word stems. (See Glossary for explanation of stemming vs truncation.) But the ComAbs stemming operator promises much more than it delivers. It does not bridge between verbs and nouns. For example,
    matches verb forms like absolves, absolved, etc., but not noun forms based on what could be considered the same stem, like absolution. The stemming operator only understands regular inflection/conjugation patterns. For example,
    will not find an irregular verb form like "held." It does not handle prefix forms well. For example,
    does not match premillennial athough it shares the same stem. In many cases you do well to use truncation rather than the stem operator. (But of course truncation is a crude tool. For example, truncation "absol*" matches verb forms of absolve and noun forms of absolution but also the different stem "absolute"!)

To search by author, pick the "by author" option and enter last name only. Be warned this database makes no effort to standardized names to a consistent form. So expect variations like John Smith vs J Smith.


Click the Browse Index Terms tab to display a sorted list of terms in the database. Here is a browse for "religious."

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Figure 2000: Browse Query Screen

And here is the result:

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Figure 2010: Browse Result Screen

The browse implementation is quite limited. Only single word terms are listed. It is not possible to browse multi-word phrases. Words from all fields are mixed together. It is not possible to restrict browsing to words from a specific field (e.g., author). When you specify a browse word, the system displays only one small screen of terms. It is not possible to advance forward alphabetically with a simple "next" command. Instead, you must enter another term to see another screen of information. It is possible to see from the browse screen that there are many typographical errors in the database.

Additional Features

A search with matching records results in a multi-record display like the following.

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Figure 3000: Search Results Hitlist

Form your own list of records by clicking the "add to folder" link at the end of each of the records you wish to keep. Each time you click this link the folder will open to let you see or change what you have entered. To leave the folder with your list intact, close the folder window and continue to choose records. When you have selected all the records you want, you may e-mail or download the records into EndNote.

Display an individual record with abstract by clicking "view full record" under the title in a citation.

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Figure 3010: Full View of single record

Click the appropriate button below the abstract to move to the next or previous record, return to the list of records, print, or e-mail an individual record. Author contact or background information is sometimes available.