Redefining the Classroom

Kenneth J. Shouldice Library Help Me!

Finding Articles

Choose an appropriate database
Articles are found in periodicals, and periodicals are indexed. To look for an article on a specific topic, you need to look in a database, the online version of an index. In our library, the way you access databases, is to go to the Library web page, and click on the Find Articles and Other Resources link. I recommend that you open the library's web page in a second window, by clicking on the link with the right mouse button, and select "Open link in new window." Then you can read this information while you perform your search.

The Find Articles and Other Resources Page opens with a listing of subjects. To start, click on the topic General. This will scoot you down the page, to the general databases.

What is a General Database?
A general database is one that represents no specific subject area. Any topic may be found here, unlike the subject specific databases which specialize. General databases are great for when you would like an overview on a topic, or when your topic is covered by two or more subject areas. Until recently, general databases were usually not very academic. We now have a number of general databases that are extremely academic. The benefit of a scholarly general database is that users can find in depth information across many disciplines or subject areas. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's look at information in a couple of less academic, general databases.

Less Academic General Databases
General Reference Center Gold is a typical general database. It indexes a number of magazines and journals covering a broad range of topics. Some of the material is full text, and other items are not. Open General Reference Center Gold in your other window, and look at the options. There should be three search boxes. Below that is a box that you may click to limit your results to full text, below that is another box that you may click to limit your results to peer-reviewed, and below that are boxes allowing you to limit your results to include images or materials published within your defined date span.

Typing in a term or two, just like you would if you were using Google or Yahoo, is pretty easy. This database, unlike those search engines, lets you do more sophisticated things, however. You can type a term in one box, and use it as a keyword, and then in the next box down, you can type in the specific name of an author, or any of a number of other limiters. You identify the limiters by clicking on the drop down menu and selecting the limiter--so if you've typed an author's last name, choose the limiter Author, if you've typed the title of an article, choose the limiter Title. (Google does let you do that, but most people aren't aware of it, and since Google searches web pages, rather than published articles, most of those limiters wouldn't help you, anyway.) Drop down menus are available in all of our databases. If you have a specific author, title, subject heading, or journal title (among other search limiters), choose the appropriate limiter.

If you type in a term or two, and press Search, browse through the results. The most recent material will be at the top, while the older articles will be at the bottom. Every item listed has been published in a magazine or journal. There is nothing listed that someone put up on the web to feed their ego, everything has been published by a magazine or journal. Granted, sometimes there are advertisements and letters to the editor that show up in your results, but all the results have been published somewhere.

General Reference Center Gold offers many types of information. Near the top of the page are tabs. The first tab is Magazines and the number that follows indicates how many articles appear in magazines. Information from magazines is generally informational, not academic. It can be a great place to look for an overview of a topic. The second tab is Academic Journals. The information in academic journals may be the peer-reviewed reporting of research, an informational notice about research someone is pursuing, or even a book review of books that might be of interest to the regular readers of that journal. To see the list of academic journal articles, you simply need to click on the Academic Journals tab. The Books tab lists book information, usually from various one volume dictionaries and encyclopedias. The News tab provides articles from newspapers, and the Multimedia tab offers videos and podcasts.

In examining the results, you will notice that the most recent materials are listed first, and the oldest materials are listed at the end. Each item should include the title of the article, and other citation information. Most articles will also indicate the length of the article, whether it is 120 words or 32 pages. Finally, in the results area, you will see whether there is a link to full text, a citation or an abstract. If there is not full text available through the database, you will see a link that says Search for full text. To see if the item is available through another database, or in paper, click on the Search for full text link. A new window will open.
  • If the item is available in one other database, it will usually open directly to the item.
  • If it is available in more than one database, the list of databases will appear, and you should be able to click on one of the suggested databases to get the full text.
  • Sometimes the screen will indicate that we subscribe to the item in paper. If we subscribe to the item in paper, you simply need to go to the top floor of the library, and find the journal. They are alphabetized by the name of the journal, and then chronologically. So if you're looking for the May 15, 2002 copy of Journal of American Dog Sledding (I made that up), you go to the top floor of the library, find the J's, then find the specific journal--each word is alphabetized--and finally find the correct issue. Copy machines are on the main floor of the library, or you may take notes.
  • If no results are found, and you still would like the item (you should look at the abstract first, to decide if it really will be useful to you), you may request it on Interlibrary Loan. There should be a link that says Borrow this item through interlibrary loan (Preferred Method) and one which says Request this item through interlibrary loan (Alternate Method). Click on the Preferred Method link first. Hopefully, it will open to a form you may fill out to request your item. If it indicates that the Preferred Method won't work, click on the Alternate Method of requesting the Interlibrary Loan, and fill out the form. Don't forget to click on Submit! Interlibrary Loan articles usually come within a week. Some come more quickly, and some never come. So, if you're in a hurry, Interlibrary Loan probably isn't for you. And, if you've picked a topic where you would need to Interlibrary Loan all of your materials, you should probably consider choosing a different topic, or talk with a librarian to determine if maybe there isn't a better database that will yield results that are available here.
  • Finally, you may see results that indicate that the item is held (owned) by Northern Michigan University. This pops up because they use the same catalog we do. If you want an item they own, you need to fill out an Interlibrary Loan request form, as described previously.
Back at the results screen, to look at the citation--and article if available--you need to click on the title link. The new screen should provide the full citation of the item, the subject headings, if any, to the left. If the full text is available, it should be at the bottom of the page.

On the right side of the screen is a box, bordered in red. The top choice is Print Preview, which will re-formulate the screen so any excess graphics are gone, and whitespace is minimized. There are E-mail and Download links, and a Citation Tools link. The Citation Tools link lets you identify whether you would like the citation in APA or MLA format, and then produces the citation in that format for you. Warning! It's not always accurate. But, it's a good start. Double check the citation with a citation manual.

A similar use database is Wilson Select Plus. Wilson Select Plus provides indexing to approximately 2400 periodicals, from 1993 to the present. Every article indexed in Wilson Select Plus is available full text. At the Wilson Select Plus search screen, type in a term or two. You can click on the drop down menus to specific if a term or terms are part of the title, the author's name, or the title of the journal, among other choices. There are other choices, lower on the screen. You needn't click on the Full text box, as every article listed in Wilson Select Plus is available full text. And, since every article is available full text, you needn't click on the Subscriptions held by my library tab, either. When you've entered your search terms, click on the Search button.

The results page lists articles meeting your search criteria. Every entry should list citation information, and include links to the full text of the article, most in both PDF and HTML format.

Click on the title of one record. You should see a page that includes links to the full text of the article. It may also tell you whether the library has copies of the magazine or journal in paper. If the LSSU library holds the magazine or journal in paper, it would be listed behind the words Local Holdings Information. If the final year ends with a -, that means we still subscribe to the item. If it closes, meaning it ends with a year (e.g. -1992), that means the last year we subscribed to the item was that year. You should be able to find the paper copies of that magazine or journal by looking alphabetically, by title, on the top floor of the library. Further down the page is a Search for full text link. That might help you find the full text of the article if you were in a database that didn't already provide the full text. You can find out more about the Search for full text link at this link. The Cite this Item link will provide a citation in four formats, including MLA and APA. Again, double check the information. While it's a good start, there are so many variations of the formats that the Cite this Item link is rarely perfect.

Further down the page you have the citation information, and eventually an Abstract. Reading the abstract can help you determine whether reading the entire article will help you with your project.

Finally, there is a list of subject headings. If one of the subject headings is exactly on your topic, click on it. That will take you to the collection of articles that deal specifically with your topic.

You can click on the View Full Text link to see the full text of the article. You may save this article, or e-mail it.

Back on the results page, you can click on the box to the left of each article, to mark the item, then near the top of the page, click on the Marked Records bubble, and get options to e-mail or print the list.

You use a less academic database to find overviews in readable articles. Some of the material found in the less academic databases will be the presentation of research, but most articles are just informative in nature.

Academic General Databases
Academic general databases are relatively new. There have been less-academic general databases and indexing for many years, but it has only been recently that computerized indexing has allowed what is basically the merging of many subject specific databases, filled with academic materials.

Academic general databases scan a broad range of topics, hence the general nature of these databases, but the contents they present are usually scholarly. These databases index and abstract materials from journals, often presenting peer-reviewed research. There is usually less full text in the academic databases. The purpose of these databases is to let users know an article exists, not deliver it to their screen, though that is always a plus. Most users of academic databases are very motivated to find the answers to their questions, and are willing to work a little harder, and wait a little longer, to get a copy of articles that have been identified. The real benefit of general topic academic databases are that researchers that are examining one aspect of a question, in one discipline, by doing a search in a general academic database, may find that a researcher in another discipline is working on a similar question. They can build on each other's knowledge, or refute it, but sometimes the only reason they even know the other person's research exists is because of one of these merged, mega databases.

Academic Onefile
Academic Onefile is one of our general academic databases. It indexes and abstracts materials from more than 12,000 journals. To access Academic Onefile, go to the Find Articles and Other Resources page, and click on the General category. From there, choose Academic Onefile which is listed under the More Academic databases. The next screen will look very much like the search screen for General Reference Center Gold. The vender, Gale, is the same as the provider of General Reference Center Gold, and the screen is basically the same. The difference is the pool of information it searches. While some journals are indexed in both, there are many more titles indexed in Academic Onefile. (4,500 in General Reference Center Gold vs. 12,000 in Academic Onefile.)

To look for information on a topic, type your topic in one of the search boxes. You may add other topics, too. If you add them to the same search box, you should type AND between them. So, if I were looking for information about student athletes and their gradepoints, I might put athletes in one box, and student success in another box. I could also type athletes and student success in one box. Either way I write that would do the same search. There are a number of boxes below the search screen. I prefer to not check the full text box. If I click the full text box, I don't get access to the materials that are full text in other databases. If my needs warranted it, I would click on the peer-reviewed box. That would mean that the database would only search for my terms in the journals which have been identified as peer-reviewed. That doesn't mean that every article within that journal is peer-reviewed. There may be a few articles about an association's meeting, or short articles alerting people to some interesting research that someone is doing. Even peer-reviewed journals have "news" sections. I may also limit my search to documents with images. That's important if the research has charts, graphs, tables, etc., but I usually don't click that option. If my search identifies an item that is useful, and this database doesn't provide the charts, I'll find a way to get the article AND its charts some other way. Finally, I can limit my search by date, and by the title of the journal.

The results will list items, most recent first, and oldest at the end. There are tabs above the search results. The left most is labeled Academic Journals, and the tabs list a few more categories. You also have the option to limit it to full text, peer-reviewed or with images by clicking in the boxes below the tabs. In the academic databases, there will not be as much full text as there was in General Reference Center Gold or Wilson Select Plus. Below each title will be some link choices. Full text may be one of them,

Finding the right subject database
This is as much art as it is a simple choice. We have listed many, but not all, of our databases on the subject listing found on the Find Articles and Other Resources page. It may help you to know how we, the librarians, put them in the order you see. We separated the databases by subject, then listed them in the order we felt students would be most likely to be successful finding information for LSSU classes. In many instances, it means the best database for a specific topic is near the bottom of the list, on the more pages, or not even listed. It does mean that the databases we recommend are likely to provide citations to materials we possess, and that are written at a level our students can understand and use. So, first choose the appropriate subject for your topic. Second, check to see if there are any sub categories that might help you find appropriate information for your search. Examples of subjects with sub categories include Business, Medicine, and General. Finally, take our advice and try searching the top database. If you are still having problems finding what you want or need, talk to a librarian.