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How to find articles

Step 1 - Prepare

Think about your topic:

Scholarly articles usually focus on a very specific aspect of a topic. This makes it hard to write an assignment based on the information found in articles only. Before you begin looking for articles, consult an encyclopedia, a handbook, your textbook or another book until you have a general understanding of your topic and the key concepts surrounding it.

Think about the types of articles you need and where the most likely sources might be. Ask yourself:

  • Who would you expect to be writing about the topic? Where would you expect relevant articles on your topic to be published? In newspapers? Magazines? Academic journals in a particular discipline?
  • How current do the articles need to be?
  • Do you just need a few articles or do you need to be very thorough?

Once you have considered these questions, you are ready to look for the databases that might meet your needs. Some databases:

  • Are multidisciplinary and index major journals from all subject areas - often a good starting point. An example of a multidisciplinary database is Academic Search Complete.
  • Attempt to be as comprehensive as possible for one subject area. For example, PsycINFO attempts to cover the world's literature in psychology.
  • Index scholarly journals while others index an entire range of publications. Most databases that index both academic and non-academic publications have a feature that allows you to limit your search to one type or the other.
  • Are updated daily, others monthly, quarterly or even less often. When choosing a database, be sure to check the time period covered and the frequency of updates.
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