Category Archives: Books

Writing Resources for Master’s Projects

chimpanzee at typewriter

Working on your second draft and can't quite get the story to flow? Trying to tighten up your writing, or hammer out some grammatical details? These resources have you covered!

(Call numbers are in bold below. All books are located in the Journalism Library or online.)

Feature Writing

  • Feature and magazine writing, by David Sumner (2013): online
  • Feature writing: telling the story, by Stephen L. Tanner (2012): Journalism PN4784.F37 T36 2012g
  • Professional feature writing, by Bruce Garrison (2010): Journalism PN4784.F37 G37 2010 or online
  • Feature writing: a practical introduction, by Susan Pape (2006): online
  • Writing feature articles, by Brendan Hennessey (2005): online
  • The art and craft of feature writing: based on the Wall Street Journal guide (1988): Journalism PN4784.F37 B58 1988

Grammar & Style

  • AP Stylebook: online
  • The elements of style, by William Strunk (1999 edition): Journalism Reference PE1408 .S772 2000 or online
  • Grammar Girl's quick and dirty tips for better writing, by Mignon Fogarty (2008): Journalism PE1112 .F613 2008
  • The only grammar & style workbook you'll ever need, by Susan Thurman (2012): Journalism PE1408 .T48 2012g

Inspiration & Essays by Writers

  • Writing creative nonfiction: instruction and insights from the teachers of the Associated Writing Programs (2001): Journalism PE1404 .W697 2001
  • Writing creative nonfiction: the literature of reality (1996): Journalism PN3377.5.R45 T35 1996

Special Kinds of Writing

  • The Chicago guide to writing about numbers, by Jane E. Miller (2004): Journalism T11 .M485 2004 
  • A field guide for science writers (2006): Journalism T11 .F52 2006

Basic Reporting & Writing Guides

  • The practice of journalism: a guide to reporting and writing the news, by Bruce Porter (1988): Journalism PN4781 .P59 1988
  • Melvin Mencher's news reporting and writing (2011): Journalism PN4781 .M4 2011

Winter Break: Some Project and Thesis Tips!

Over the winter break, no doubt most of you will be hard at work on the first draft of your master’s projects and theses! Here are some ways to get help before your draft is due, along with some helpful resources and strategies for getting that draft done.

Where to get help:

Writing and editing resources:

Project/Thesis tips and strategies:

Peg Boyle Single has some great tips on writing theses and dissertations, much of which is applicable to your project. She also wrote a great (and really short!) book on this topic. 
How to Write a Lot by Paul Silvia; this book is geared toward academic writing, but it’s suitable for all kinds of writing, and how to make a habit of it. Best of all, this book is super-short at just 149 pages! 
This Gradhacker article has a lot of great tips, primarily geared toward getting yourself in the right mental space to get the work done. The main take-aways:
  • You are not alone—all your classmates (and those before you) have faced feelings of anxiety, failure, and inability related to this project. You may feel like you’re the only one struggling, but all of us who have trudged the halls of graduate school have faced similar feelings. Reach out for the support of your classmates—they probably need to vent their frustration, too.
  • Work in small increments, like half an hour. Even a little progress is something. Facing the seemingly insurmountable goal of writing your entire project can seem daunting, but you get it done by just breaking it down into tiny pieces.
  • Don’t strive for perfection, strive for DONE.
This blog post on outlining shows a great way to break your project up into chunks. Outlines are key to breaking your project into small, digestable pieces, and for keeping you on track.
A focus statement can be helpful: write a one- or two-sentence summary of your project. Write or print it on a notecard or small piece of paper, and keep it in front of you while you work. Look up at it every once in a while, and use it to keep yourself on track. Often, while working on a story or research, your mind will take off on wild tangents—having your focus statement in front of you can help you maximize your time by keeping you focused.

Master’s Project/Thesis Resources

Getting started on your master's project or thesis? Here at the Journalism Library, we have lots of resources to help you get started! If you'd like to look at master's projects/theses from past students, you can access the 2010-2013 ones in Journalism. The 2009 and earlier projects/theses are located on the second floor of Lehman Library. Use our Master's Projects and Theses Index to find specific titles or authors.

Doing some background research? Tackling an academic subject or something not adequately tracked by publicly available sources? Try searching in our library databases. For science topics, try Scopus or Web of Science; for humanities, social sciences, and general topics, try ProQuest or Academic Search Complete.

Looking for books on writing, editing, or copy-editing? We've got them, as well as online access to the AP Stylebook!

Want to save all your links, articles, and resources in one spot? Want to make formatting your citations easy? Try using Zotero!

Still not finding what you need? Email or tweet Starr, your Journalism Librarian, with any questions or to request a research appointment. I'm happy to help!

Students Reading Periodicals

NYC Community District Profiles – First Stop for Beat Reporting

New York City's 59 community districts within its 5 boroughs show the incredible diversity of our city.  Each district profile contains summary data on population characteristics and land area and use.  Using 2010 Census information, these profiles are a great way to know your communities (age, ethnicity, household, income support, population changes), and each community board writes a needs statement at the beginning of the profile, talking about the particular needs and issues – traffic congestion and parking, affordable housing, schools, parks and recreation facilities, economic and retail development, and more.  This statement provides a context for development and budget priorities.

There is one bound volume per borough available in the reference section of the Journalism Library, call number HT168.N3

These profiles are also available online and for download in PDF format:

Compare to the Citywide Profile, and find much more at the Department of City Planning website.  Go on, take a bite out of the big apple!

Alumni Library Privileges

graduationCongratulations on your upcoming graduation!  Wondering what Columbia library privileges you'll have after graduation?  Here's the scoop:

Your Columbia UNI and password will continue to give you electronic access to library resources for a grace period of about 6 months after graduation (assuming you were registered during the spring semester).  The Library Information Office (LIO) encourages you to continue to use your UNI during the grace period for all eresource access (electronic databases, ebooks, ejournals), and after this time, you may obtain an alumni ID card through LIO.  The cost is $5 payable with Visa, MasterCard or personal check (cash is not accepted).  Borrowing privileges may be purchased for $30 per month.

Library Information Office
201 Butler Library
535 West 114th St.
New York, NY 10027

(212) 854-7309,

Once you are registered as an alum, there is a special libraries gateway for Columbia University Libraries Alumni & Friends through which you may access all electronic resources for alumni – – including premium datababses made available by special arrangement just for you!  For a complete list, please go to the E-Resources for Alumni and Friends page.  And be sure to check the newspapers collection!

NYC Zoning Handbook

Zoning HandbookEverything you wanted to know about NYC zoning but were afraid to ask!  It’s all here in the Zoning Handbook, 2011 edition from the Department of City Planning – now at your fingertips in the Journalism Library, call number KFX2079 .A2 2011g

What does FAR stand for?  What is a restrictive declaration?  What is a tax lot?  In what forms would one see a Privately Owned Public Space?  Get the answers to these and much more in the Zoning Handbook. With maps, data tables, information on special purpose districts, it’s great reference for all things pertaining to NYC zoning!

Borrow Direct Collaboration ExpandsC

 Borrow DirectBorrow Direct – a book-borrowing consortium between the libraries of Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University – will be expanded soon to include additional institutions in the service – Harvard and MIT!

Beginning in summer 2011, faculty, students, and staff from Columbia and the six partner institutions will also have access to regularly circulating materials from Harvard and MIT. This expansion increases the number of volumes available to Columbia scholars from more than 45 million to almost 70 million.

Borrow Direct is fast and easy to use – try it here today!