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Research Help: How to Find Articles on Your Topic

How to Find Articles on Your Topic

Please note: This guide is being updated and will soon include tips for searching Novanet. 


Use an Article Index or Full-text Article Database:

Article indexes and databases come in many forms and provide differing levels of information.  Some just provide a brief citation (author, title, & journal source) for each article, some have abstracts describing the article, and some provide the full text of the articles.

Pick the Right Index/Database:

Most article databases are subject-specific, cover only certain time periods and only a selected number and type of publications. Select the right database(s) for your topic by reading the database descriptions in the subject listing of indexes and databases on the A-Z Databases page

Note: You may need to do some preliminary research to define your topic, clarify terms and concepts or get background information on the topic such as the relevant dates, key people involved, the correct spelling of names and places, etc., or just to get a brief overview of the topic. Subject-specific dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and other reference materials are available on the main floor of the library to assist with this. (The librarian at the Research Help Desk will also be able to help you get started.)

Use the Right Search Strategy:

The terminology used by each index can vary a great deal, as do the ways in which they can be searched. Check the database's search Help link or ask a librarian for assistance.

Evaluate What You See:

Critically evaluate the articles listed to the best of your ability with all the information given. (Make sure you are seeing the full record for all indexing details.) Check in particular: the source, author, date, number of pages, abstract, and any descriptors or indexing terms applied. You may have to adjust your search several times before finding the best articles.

Get the Information You Need to Find the Article:

Many databases will provide a link to the full text of the article (often a pdf symbol). When there is no link to the article, note the journal title and the date of the issue in which the article is printed. Then:

  1. Check the Journal Title in Journal Finder and see if your article is available in another database.
  2. Check if the library owns the journal by looking up the journal title in the Library Catalogue. Make sure that the volumes available include the one you need under "Holdings". If the library has only online holdings, click on the URL given in the library catalogue and search for the article in the full-text database.

Find the Article in the Library:

To find print journal articles in the library, write down the call number for the journal and note the location. (Usually the Journals floor, one floor down.)
Find the journal on the shelf by its call number.
Select the appropriate volume and issue. Note that several volumes may be bound together.

For a Copy of the Article:

Journals, magazines and newspapers in the main library are for use in the library only. Photocopiers are available on the Journals floor and on the main floor. Microfilm can be photocopied, or scanned and downloaded, using the microfilm reader/printers in the Microform Room.

Articles from full-text databases can be printed, downloaded, or emailed to your account. A printer is available on the main floor of the library and in some computer labs on campus.

Articles not found in print or online can be requested through the Library's Interlibrary Loan service

TIP: Don't forget to write down or copy and paste the information you will require for your reference notes or bibliography BEFORE you leave the journal. (You don't want to have to find the article again when it comes time to hand in your essay!) Guides to citing sources are available in the library and on the library web site.

If you run into any difficulties, please ask for assistance at the Research Help Desk or send us an email message at

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Last updated August 2011/AC