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Journalism Ethics — Getting Started

Researching Your Ethics Topic

 Political caricature titled, A new bull in the ring / F. Graetz. 1882

The purpose of this guide is to provide help with your Bull in the Ring or other Journalism Ethics assignment.


A successful research strategy typically involves the following:

  1. Find articles in academic and professional journalism periodicals focused on the ethical issue: The Magazine & Journal Research tab above provides access to professional and academic journals in the field of journalism and mass communication and allows you to search the full text of titles like  Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Columbia Journalism Review, Newspaper Research Journal, American Journalism Review, Quill, and St. Louis Journalism Review.
  2. Locate newspaper articles which discuss(or are themselves examples of)  an ethical controversy in the media. Use Nexis Uni (full text of 100s of newspapers back to the 1980s) to find examples of journalism which violated an ethical principle (e.g. the stories were plagiarized, or unfairly targeted someone running for political office) or articles which examine an ethical principle of journalism.
  3. Explore any legal aspects of the ethical issue, as discussed in law journals or debated in court. Many issues of journalistic ethics have been examined in court cases - LexisNexis Legal can locate both cases and laws related to ethical issues; law journal articles are also helpful for explaining how law and courts have treated the issue over time.
  4. Locate material to support your argument in books on journalism ethics (see Journalism Ethics Books tab). The library has many books on journalism ethics which can provide helpful analysis, and case studies, of an issue.

Further tips:

Write down all the terms, concepts, names, issues, events you can think of which define this issue before you start your search. As you read about how your issue is described in articles, jot down these additional terms to use in further database searching.


What are the broader issues encompassing the ethical question? Privacy? Deception? Objectivity? The First Amendment? All of these concepts are treated at length in books and articles (many of the books set aside for this class are great for this); for the purposes of the assignment, is it possible to show that that the merits of your argument actually don’t conflict with the conventional wisdom on these topics?

Need more help? Feel free to contact me.

Subject Guide

Photo Caption for "A New Bull in the Ring / F. Graetz

Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, NYC in April 19, 1882. Print shows Chester A. Arthur riding the Republican elephant tossed high in the air in a "Political Arena", the elephant is patched with scandals labeled "Credit Mobilier, Collusion with Monopolies, Back Pay Grab, Third Termism, Whiskey Ring, Navy Ring, [and] Dorsey 'Soap' 1880". Below, on the floor of the arena, Samuel J. Tilden is sitting backwards on a donkey labeled "Incurable" and Puck's Independent Party figure is riding a bucking bull, its horns labeled "Anti-Monopoly" and "Tariff Reform". Puck applauds from a viewing stand on the right; sitting in the grandstand at left are Ulysses S. Grant, Cyrus W. Field, Rutherford B. Hayes, Thomas F. Bayard, Winfield Scott Hancock, Benjamin F. Butler, Adams, David Davis, Allen G. Thurman, William M. Evarts, Abram S. Hewitt, George F. Edmunds, Wayne MacVeagh, and George B. McClellan.