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**Research Basics**: Finding Articles

Easy to follow guide on how to do research step by step, from start to finish. Choosing and researching a topic, using library materials, finding books and articles, search strategies, evaluating information and more!

Article Search

What is a Database?
Research databases are online tools used to search for articles on your topic. Databases allow you to search for articles by keyword across a wide range of journals/newspapers/magazines at one time. Most library databases contain citations, abstracts, or full-text journal articles from thousands of magazines, journals, newspapers, historical documents, and other literary works.

Many (but not all) of the articles listed in the databases are available in full-text format. Full-text means the entire text of the article is available online. You can read, print, or email the article directly from the computer. If you find an article we do not have full-text, we can get it for you through Interlibrary Loan.

Steps for Creating a Search Strategy

It is important to map out how you will go about searching for research materials on your topic prior to beginning your search. Here is an example of a search strategy worksheet [PDF] that you may find helpful as you read through this page.

1. Summarize your topic
2. Identify main concepts (keywords)
3. Identify synonyms, alternate words and/or related words
4. Try different combinations of keywords

Example: How does exposure to smokers affect children who have asthma?

What are the main concepts or keywords?
.....smoking, children, asthma

Think of synonyms, alternate words or/and related words.
.....secondhand smoke, smokers..... toddler, pediatric, child .... allergies, breathing problems

Develop your search strategy using the terms above.

Mix and match terms. If one keyword doesn't work, try to vary your keywords with synonyms.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators help to narrow or broaden your search. The most useful are AND, OR, NOT which help to connect keywords or concepts.


You can use more than one Boolean connector in the same search statement, such as:

  • Depression AND Teenagers OR Adolescents
  • Smokers AND Children AND asthma OR breathing problems
  • Anorexia AND males AND college

Try It Yourself

Research databases
Limit Your Results

*Databases searched:
--Academic Search Complete, PsycArticles, Social Science Full-Text, Social Work Abstracts

Finding Scholarly / Peer-Reviewed Articles

Scholarly academic journals (such as Journal of Advanced Nursing or Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, for example) usually include longer articles, providing in-depth analysis of topics, and are written by professors or other experts in the field. The credentials and scholarly affiliations of the author(s) are usually listed.

Scholarly journal articles are often divided into standard sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography (works cited). For scholarly journals, articles are peer-reviewed or critically examined and evaluated prior to publishing by a group of scholars or editors who are experts in their field.

Popular magazines (such as Newsweek or Sports Illustrated) are usually written by staff journalists, who write articles of varying format and structure in language meant for a general audience. Popular magazines tend to include advertising and color pictures rather than scholarly charts and graphs.

To find scholarly/peer-reviewed journals, try searching Academic Search Complete which is one of the library's general topic databases with many full-text articles. This database also provides a limiting function to find only peer-reviewed articles from scholarly journals. On the search page, check off the box labeled "Scholarly (Peer-reviewed) Journals".

Another database that provides scholarly articles is JSTOR, which includes only academic journals. These databases and many others can be accessed from the Databases A-Z list.

Find Full-Text of a Specific Article

The journals list can be searched by journal title to find out whether a particular journal is available at McKillop Library either in print and/or online. If a journal is available online, this list will tell you which library database(s) contains the full-text and for which years we have the full-text available.


If the full article is not available in our resources, then you can use interlibrary loan to request the article.

Search for journal titles:

Next Step...

You're done, great job! Well, er, not quiet....All of those sources you used in your paper? Now you have to create a bibliography, called a References or Works Cited page. Let's find out how...

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Off-Campus Access

To access databases, ebooks, or other library resources from off-campus, you will be asked to enter the following information:

  • your Salve username (firstname.lastname) -- do NOT add -- and
  • your password (same as Salve email password)
  • More...

Popular Databases

To search for articles on a certain topic, use a library database which index a large variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers by subject.

Many of these databases also include the full-text of articles. Each database covers a different collection of magazines and journals, so you need to select a database that is relevant to your topic. To find suggestions of which database is useful for a certain topic, use the databases by subject list., or you could start your research with a general multi-disciplinary database, such as Academic Search Complete<. Once you are in a database, search by keyword to locate articles on your topic.

These are some popular article sources:


Databases by Subject

Scholarly vs Popular

When evaluating an article for use in a research paper, one important distinction is whether the article comes from a scholarly peer-reviewed journal or from a popular magazine.

For an explanation on the differences between these two types of periodicals, check out this video:

(Source: Ronald Williams Library, NEIU. YouTube.)

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