How to find an article
on your topic
An Online Tutorial
brought to you by
Need an article about environmental responsibility?
The identity crisis of Lady Gaga?
You’re in luck and you’re in the right place!
This short tutorial will show you how to start searching
effectively for articles on any topic.
Figure out what you need
It seems like a given, but so many times we jump
straight to the search engine without pausing to think
about what we’re really looking for.
Save yourself time and frustration – consider this
BEFORE you start searching!
Ask yourself these questions:
What is my purpose?
What information do I want to find?
What am I trying to
What statements, statistics, studies (etc)
will support my purpose?
inform, entertain (etc)?
What types of sources am I looking for?
Articles, books, news, primary sources (etc)?
Once you know
WHAT you need to find,
the next step is figuring out
WHERE to search!
Decide where to search
Journal articles can typically be found in three main places:
In print @ library
Finding an article on a topic can be
tricky with print journals. You can
Online via Internet
You can find many articles available on the
try browsing through a promising
Internet for free, especially if you’re using a search
journal volume, but it may be faster
engine like Google Scholar. However, many times
to start by searching for your topic
an Internet search will take you to a journal
publisher’s page where you will be asked to pay
for an article. Don’t pay for it! Access the article
through the library’s resources to avoid fees.
Decide where to search
Online via Database
Databases are fantastic places to turn to when you need an article on a topic.
They hold large amounts of articles in one central location, and it’s easy for you
to search through multiple journals at once. Most databases offer additional
features that can be really helpful as you search for articles (citation help, links
to similar articles, and more).
databases : articles :: libraries : books
The library gives me access to a lot of databases—
How am I supposed to figure out which one to use?
Academic Search Complete (ASC) is a great database to start with if you aren’t sure what
you should use. ASC doesn’t focus on one specific subject like most other databases. It is
multi-disciplinary and includes full-text articles for over 5,000 journals. You can think of it as
the Walmart of databases: easy, one-stop searching for just about anything you need. For
beginning researchers, it is a fantastic starting point!
The ASC is great, but I want to see what else is out there.
Is there an easy way to see which databases focus on certain subjects?
Yes there is! Go to the Resources by Course page. This page organizes databases into
the subject categories that they cover, so you can see exactly which databases would be
best for topics like autism or marketing. Once you click on a subject, you’ll see a list of
relevant databases. Short descriptions of each database can help you decide which one
is most likely to include the information you seek.
If you can’t settle on a database, or if you feel like you’re searching in the wrong places,
feel free to ASK a librarian which database they’d recommend.
1: Click on Resources by Course
2: Click on the course/subject that pertains most closely to
your topic to bring up the subject’s page and see the list of
recommended databases. Click on the database you want!
You know WHAT and WHERE …
let’s talk about HOW to search
What words or phrases capture the main ideas of your topic?
In your thesis, what words represent vital aspects of your topic?
What words or terms do you need more information about?
Are there any synonyms or alternate terms that could be used?
Broader categories that describe the topic?
Narrower subcategories of the topic?
K-12 schools teaching
restructure Educational reform
Ohio teased hair
oil international leggings
global market imports/exports identity
GDP celebrity icons
This simple step can make a huge difference in the
relevance and total number of your search results:
If you’re getting back too many search
results, add the word “and” followed by
another keyword. This gives another jelly
criteria and will ultimately lower the butter
number of results because the search will
only find articles that include BOTH
Search for “peanut butter and jelly” and
you’ll only get back the resources that
include the words peanut butter AND jelly
If you’re having trouble finding anything, try this to broaden your scope!
The exact opposite of adding and. Use
the word “or” followed by another
keyword to broaden your search and get
back more results.
Search for “soda or pop or Coke” and get back
all the results that include any of the keywords.
Now that you know WHAT,
WHERE and HOW, it’s time for
the finishing touches! You’ll
want to actually go to the
resource you’re going to be
searching in for this last part.
Get set & go!
Consider all search options
Create a search plan
Each database is different, but most offer you great search
options that can help you bring back exactly what you
need without hassle. Many times you can limit your
searches by date, to peer-reviewed articles or to images
merely by checking a box on the search page.
ALWAYS be sure to look around the search page
and check out search options!
General search options
Try this nifty little search trick:
* teach* teacher
This cool trick (called truncation) is helpful if
your keyword often has multiple endings or
suffixes. Attach an asterisk to the root of the
word to bring back search results with all
possible word endings. Truncation may not
work in every database or search engine, but
it’s definitely worth checking into – and it will
work in the library catalog and in Academic
General search options
Nifty search tip #2:
“ ” Search: “Ralph Waldo Emerson”
Results: Only resources that talk about
Many times keywords aren’t just single words – Ralph Waldo Emerson. No stray
and that’s okay! When your keywords are source about Ralphie from The
phrases, you may want to consider using Christmas Story or Where’s Waldo or
quotation marks. When you put a phrase into Emerson appliances.
quotation marks, you’re telling the search that
the words are a single item that must be included
in the article exactly as they are within the
Watch out! These are easy ways to become confused about search shortcuts.
Search Why it’s tricky: Possible ways to avoid the
“John F There is no period after F. “John F. Kennedy” or “JFK”
Kennedy” Since it’s in quotation marks, the searches must match or “President Kennedy”
EXACTLY. That means that it won’t bring back articles on
John F. Kennedy because there is no period after the F in the
quotation. It also won’t be searching for the words President
Kennedy or John Kennedy or JFK.
“happ*” The asterisk is inside the quotation marks. happ*
This means that the search will look for happ* EXACTLY, so it
searches for the asterisk instead of seeing it as a symbol for
“awesome or The search combination is inside the quotation marks. awesome or amazing
amazing” Only articles that use the exact phrase “awesome or “awesome” or “amazing”
amazing” will be returned; it will search for this as a single
entity rather than searching for the words separately.
Map out an attack plan and stick to it – if
you start to have bad luck or if you get
frustrated, go with another battle tactic.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup
plan (or two) when searching. Remember
that searching in different ways and places
will probably be a great way to be sure that
you’re getting the BEST information!
And you’re off! Happy searching!
If you have any further questions or
problems, please feel free to ASK a librarian
at Pilgrim Library – asking is easier than ever
before and we’re happy to help!
You also can consult the library’s LibGuide
about Finding Articles.
You successfully finished the library tutorial:
How to find an article on my topic
If you have any questions about this tutorial,
please get in touch with Pilgrim Library or
Click below to check out Pilgrim Library on: