Friday, March 20, 2009

Finding journal articles: Part one

The last two Questions of the Week touched on the topic of doing academic research by finding journal articles. One of the most common questions I come across in my daily life as a librarian is, "How can I find journal articles?"

This is harder than it looks, and that's why including articles from scholarly journals is an extremely important part of solid academic work -- this is work, so you will need to focus and be willing to spend time reading through what may turn out to be dozens of lousy results in order to find the few gems you can use for your paper. This is even more important now because of the changes in the curriculum in response to the recent challenges set by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

So where do you go from here? How do you find journal articles? Let's start with the basic stuff:

First, it's important to understand how things work in the Library when it comes to supporting academic research, which includes understanding a key difference between journals and library databases, as well as exactly what these databases are.

A journal is a collection of articles on an academic subject, written by experts on that subject and published regularly like a magazine -- some come out once a month, others come out once every three or four months. Those subjects can range from something as broad as psychology to something as narrow as "Nanotech Applications in Materials Science." Along with regular magazines like Sports Illustrated or Vogue, we call them "serials" or "periodicals" because they're published on a schedule with no end in sight. You can think of a journal as being very similar to a magazine -- except instead of Britney Spears' latest antics along with colorful ads, you'll learn the latest in positron coaxial crystallography and its application in hydrodynamic fluid interactions (don't waste your time looking for positron coaxial crystallography or hydrodynamic fluid interactions, incidentally -- I made them up as an example).

A library database can include many journals and is usually available online through ALADIN. Some are specialized, focusing on one discipline only, and some are very broad and include hundreds of journals from dozens of disciplines.

In fact, we have two of these very broad databases: ProQuest Research Library and Ebscohost Academic Search Premier. Both databases are the two best places to start your research if you're not sure where to look; a search in either will enable you to start narrowing your topic and figuring out how to refine your search.

You can get there by visiting; if you're off campus you will be prompted to log in. This is required because our access to those databases are on a subscription basis, which means we pay for each Gallaudet student, staff member, or faculty member to have access. In the screengrab below, you'll also notice that we've arranged our electronic access in a certain order. First, we have ProQuest and Ebscohost for extremely general searches.

Click on the picture to the right to enlarge and look in the little red box -- that's where you go for either ProQuest or Ebscohost. The process of searching isn't too different from Google; you just need to remember four things:
  • Proper terminology -- no slang allowed!
  • Synonyms. For instance, instead of just looking for "teaching," try also searching for "education" or "instruction." You will have to try a few times to get exactly what you're looking for, which means you have to be willing to spend time with it. ProQuest and Ebscohost will become your newest friends.
  • Full-text searching. Most databases will let you check a box requesting that you see only full-text results, which means the entire article is available for you to read online. Sometimes you'll come across abstracts, which are short summaries of articles. Abstracts should not be used as sources, but can be used to weed out some articles that aren't appropriate.
  • Peer-reviewed articles. We covered this in a previous Question of the Week.
Now look to the right of the red box in the picture; you'll see "Need more?" with links to "Databases by Subject" and "Databases by Title." These links are the next link (ha ha, see what I did there?) in the chain of search refinement -- they will help you narrow your search further if you only want articles in your field, or if you know exactly which database you want.

Databases by Subject is fairly straightforward. You'll see a little menu of different disciplines, like History, Psychology, and Audiology / Human Biology / Medical Sciences. See -- we went and organized them for you! Most of the disciplines taught at Gallaudet are represented in databases here.

Databases by Title is even simpler. You just search for the name of the database you want. If you're new to this and you have no idea where to begin, go back to ProQuest, Ebscohost, or "Databases by Subject."

This is just for a start. Before you start getting dizzy with knowledge and start popping Dramamine, we'll take a breather here. Next week, we'll get even further into the process of refining your search for journal articles and we'll do an exercise, based on a recent course project. It's about the Weimar Republic -- it'll be fun.

No Question of the Week this week. Happy Spring Break!


  1. Hi,

    I think the article give us a very useful information that how we can write a good article,and what is the requirements of such like academic qualification.In my point of view a writer can be read a good article with out having high qualification,But if he have seance and full confidence.

  2. good work thanks for sharing more knowledgeable information. It's really appreciable work

  3. Thank you, Plastic!

    It's true that a writer doesn't need to have a lot of credentials to write a good article. However, when you're doing academic research, it is definitely a requirement!


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