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Library Research Tutorial

Finding Articles

This module covers how to use article databases in your research. After completing this module you should be able to:

  • distinguish between popular, trade, and scholarly periodicals
  • choose the best article database(s) for your research question
  • use an article database to locate articles of interest 

Types of Articles

There are four types of articles that you might use during your research:

Article Type What is it? When should I use it?
Reference Articles Articles that provide background information about a topic. Often written by a scholar. Published in reference books (physical or electronic). When looking for background information about a topic. 
Popular Articles Articles written for the general public. Many are originally published in magazines and newspapers.  When looking for background information about a topic. 
Trade Articles Articles written for professionals in a specific field. Originally published in trade journals, such as Education Week or Paralegal Today.   When looking for information about a particular profession. 
Scholarly Articles Articles written by researchers for students and researchers. Published in scholarly journals. These articles go though the peer review process. This means that other researchers in the same field have read the article and provided feedback prior to publication.  When looking for original research.

You can learn more about the differences between popular, trade, and scholarly articles here: Is it a scholarly, trade, or popular?

Finding Reference Articles

Most of this tutorial focuses on how to find articles originally published in periodicals (e.g. magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and scholarly journals).

However, another kind of article you might want to look at are reference articles. Reference articles can be helpful to look at. as you begin a new research project. Reference articles are authored by experts (such as college professors) but are intended for a general audience rather than a scholarly audience. 

The Inver Hills library has two databases dedicated to reference services: Gale Virtual Reference Library and Credo Reference Books

Video Tutorials for Gale Ebooks

Credo How-To Videos

When you use an online article database, it quickly scans thousands of issues of many different periodicals to find a match for your search terms.  A database will show you which periodicals have articles on your topic. Otherwise, you would have to look through each issue of each periodical for articles on your topic.

What will you find in an article database?  
You will find articles or citations to articles from different kinds of periodicals.  

What are periodicals?
Magazines, newspapers, and journals are called periodicals because they are issued on a regular or "periodic" basis. 

What's the difference between citation, abstract and full-text in a database?

  • Citation  Some database results may not contain the article itself, but the citation will provide the information that you need to find the article. You can select what citation format you would like (e.g., APA, MLA...) by selecting Cite on the right hand panel underneath Tools.  
  • Abstract  Many database results also include an abstract or summary of the article's content.
  • Full text  Most IHCC Library databases allow you to limit to articles with the complete text available. 

How to access the full text of an article? 

  • In the upper left hand corner of your article record, you may see options for viewing the article in PDF and/or HTML format. When possible, select the PDF option-- this allows you to see the article's page numbers as they appeared when the article was originally published in a printed or online journal. 
  • In addition, look for the Where Can I Get This? link. If you follow this link and sign in with your StarID and password, you may see options for accessing the article in other ways, including through a different database or via Interlibrary Loan. You can reach out to a librarian for help accessing the article. 

There are two major types of article databases: multidisciplinary databases and subject databases.  Which database(s) you will want to use will depend on your topic.

Multi-disciplinary article databases cover a wide range of subjects and sometimes index a mixture of popular and scholarly sources. One popular multidisciplinary database is Academic Search Premier, which includes includes scholarly articles (from multiple disciplines), magazine articles, newspaper articles, trade articles, and book reviews. 

If you are looking for articles about a particular subject or from a certain academic discipline, use a subject database. These databases specialize in a particular subject, and many of the articles indexed are from scholarly sources.

Examples of subject databases and the kinds of articles they identify are:

CINAHL - Nursing and Allied HealthUsed for nursing, paramedics, and other health professionals
ProQuest Criminal Justice Periodicals  Articles on crime, law enforcement, and criminal justice from trade and scholarly journals. 

Reading Scholarly Articles & Understanding Peer Review

Your instructor may require that you look at scholarly articles. Scholarly articles are also known as peer-reviewed, academic, or refereed. 

The tutorial below, created by the North Carolina State University Libraries, explains the elements of a scholarly article. 

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Scholarly articles have gone through the peer review process. The video below, courtesy of the University of Carleton Library, provides a brief overview of the peer review process.

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