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How do I find articles?

Tips for locating articles at the Library.

Database Search Techniques

Use Boolean Operators

The Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT can help you combine concepts, as well as helping you to expand or narrow your search.

  • AND Narrows Your Search
    Joining search terms with AND looks for results which must include all of your keywords: alcoholism AND schizophrenia
  • OR Broadens Your Search
    Joining search terms with OR broadens your search and can be used with synonyms: Latino OR Hispanic
  • NOT Limits Your Search
    Joining search terms with NOT excludes keywords from your search: pets NOT cats

Use Truncation and Wildcards When Applicable

Truncation and wildcards help you search variations of words that may be important for your search.

  • wom?n finds woman or women
  • philosoph* finds philosopher, philosophers, philosophy...

These symbols can vary from database to database, so check the "Help" or "Search Tips" options in the database you are searching to find the best one for your needs.

Plan Your Search

Think about your topic for your project and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What subject area(s) might your topic fall under?  Is your topic interdisciplinary?
  • What keywords can you use to describe your topic? Consider synonyms or variant spellings.

Then consider the types of sources that you need for your research: 

  • Do you need primary or secondary sources? Popular or scholarly publications?
  • Do you need "up-to-the-minute" information or are you looking for materials that cover a specific time period?
  • Are you looking for materials covering a specific geographic area or that were published in a certain place?
  • What languages do you need material in?

The answers to these questions will provide valuable information that will help you select the best databases for your topic and develop your search strategy.

Review Database Descriptions

Selecting the best database for your needs can make a difference between search success and failure.  When you select a database, be sure to review the database descriptions and consider the following:

  • What subject areas are covered in the database? Does the database focus on the physical sciences, humanities, business?
  • What years does the database cover? Does the database have embargoes on specific years for the journal you are searching?
  • What kinds of sources does the database include? Articles, book chapters, dissertations, newspapers?

Setting Search Parameters

Use Advanced Search

The advanced or guided search option allows you to select specific fields to search, such as author or title,

Use Subjects Terms or Descriptors

If you find an article on the topic you are interested in, look at the subject terms or descriptors that are listed in the record for the item. These terms are standard within the database, and often can help you locate more articles on that topic. Some databases, such as APAPsycNet or Medline, will have a thesaurus feature built in the database, which will point you to the best subject terms. Take advantage of these features when they are available.

Use Limits

Most databases provide an option to limit your search. These limits can include language, type of resource, publication date, and full text only. If you find yourself getting too many hits, or would like to eliminate certain types of records, set your limits and try again