Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Resources

Selecting a topic
Your photojournalism research paper is relatively short, so narrowing your topic will be necessary, but start BIG. You might end up somewhere that surprises you. The possibilities are vast. You may study a person’s or group’s work; coverage of a particular event, topic, person, or group; or coverage within a particular time period or country. You could contrast different styles of photojournalism on the same subject or study the impact of a particular innovation. You could investigate a question about ethics, equity, access, or tools (e.g., Instagram) in photojournalism – or another question you uncover through your own curiosity!

Finding photojournalism resources
Search for words like photojournalism, visual journalism, photojournalist, visual journalist, documentary photography, news photography, war photography, conflict journalism, embedded journalism, citizen journalism, documentary photographer, news photographer, war photographer, photo story, photo essay, picture diary, visual communication, and communication arts. Other than war photography, sub-genres include conservation photography and social documentary photography.

Finding online image archives and documentary photography collections in print
Search for the topic in which you’re interested (experiment with broader terms, narrower terms, and synonyms) PLUS words like gallery, “digital archive,” photographs, “online exhibit,” “image archive,” “digital collection.”  For print works in libraries, try “pictorial works,” photojournalism, or “documentary photography.”

How inclusive is photojournalism? Check the Global Media Monitoring Project‘s findings, consider this opinion essay on The Problem with Photojournalism and Africa, an article about gender in photojournalism (Time), or the work of Diversity Photo.

Use the VCU Journal Finder (second search box on page – limit to journals) to determine which database contains a journal in which you’re interested.  During second semester, with your VCU eID you can access AP Images, Communication and Mass Media Complete, and Taylor and Francis Journals Complete (which includes History of Photography)

Taking your own photojournalism shots? Consider the NPPA’s Code of Ethics and this article from the NYT (2015) that debates rules on post-processing. Planning to photograph a protest or analyzing photos that do? Consider these suggestions about photographing protests, rallies, and marches from the Adorama Learning Center (one of many such guides online) and these tips about following up afterward.

Cite photographs in MLA Style, 8th ed., using Noodle Tools.

For passwords to Noodle Tools and library databases, go to the Dragons Research group in Schoology and open the Resources section.

Books in the MW Library


  • About to Die: How News Images Move the Public (Oxford UP, 2010)
  • American Modernism and Depression Documentary (Oxford UP, 2009)
  • Disciplinary Truths: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning (U of Minnesota P, 2009)
Print books
  • 12 Million Black Voices – Richard Wright
  • Am. Photographers and the National Parks
  • Ansel Adams: The National Park Service Photographs
  • Bare Witness – Gordon Parks
  • By These Hands – David Parker
  • Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
  • Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton
  • Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
  • Journalism Next – Mark Briggs
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men – James Agee and Walker Evans
  • The Migrant Project – Rick Nahmias
  • Native Soil – Jack Spencer
  • The Oxford Project – Feldstein and Bloom
  • The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders
  • Polar Obsession – Paul Nicklen
  • Suburbia – Bill Owens
  • Sweet Earth – Joel Sternfeld
  • Things as They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955 – World Press Photo
  • Third Views, Second Sights: Rephotographic Survey of the Am. West

MW Library Databases

For passwords to Noodle Tools and library databases, go to the Dragons Research group in Schoology and open the Resources section.

Explora (incl. AP Source) – includes AfterImage (HTML – 6/96-now), Art in America (PDF – 11/02-now) and past issues of other magazines and journals

Genderwatch and Historical Newspapers – archive of article text and scanned images for the NYT, WSJ, and the UK’s Guardian/Observer (UK) newspaper, and Genderwatch, a database of multiple source types focused on issues of gender

General OneFile – includes Journal of Communication Inquiry (3/97-now) and past issues of other journals and magazines

JSTOR – useful for scholarly studies examining the social/historical impact of a photographer’s work; includes many art journals including Aperture (1960-2014) which published a Spring 2014 issue focused on documentary work and a thought-provoking “We the People?” issue in Winter 2012 

Oxford Handbooks Online – scholarly research reviews – a useful stepping stone between general reference and scholarly research studies

VCU Research Guides

News and Documentary Photo Archives

American Memory (LOC) – FSA images
AP Images – good for discovery, but to download, you need to subscribe – we don’t, but VCU does!
National Press Photographers (NPPA)
Center for Documentary Studies (Duke) – Exhibits
The Civil War: The Birth of Photojournalism (CBS)
College Photographer of the Year (CPOY)
Flickr Commons – search box midway down page
Guardian (UK) Eyewitness – featured photo each day with informative caption and pro tip.  Free iPad app available too.
International Center of Photography’s Research Center – both Exhibitions and Major Holdings include photojournalists
Life Photo Archive (1860’s to 1970’s)
National Archives (U.S.) – incl. many photographs
National Geographic – Photography
New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery
New York Times Lens photojournalism blog
Newseum – Online Exhibits
Pictures of the Year International – Archive
Struggle in Black and White: Activist Photographers Who Fought for Civil Rights
War photography (NYT)
World Press Photo Archive – open archive on right

Publications, Resource Sites, Projects

Life Magazine – featured photojournalism stories
News in Pictures (list of links)
Projects that explore identity using different photographic approaches, such as First Comes Love, GayFaceStates of the Union, and We Are the Youth (photo projects to promote global awareness of social issues)
VII Magazine – work of 29 photojournalists
Photo by Kaique Rocha on