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Research Skills Tutorial: 4. Finding Articles

Intended to help you develop the skills required to complete research assignments

Video: What is a database?

Has your instructor told you to use the library's databases to find sources for your paper?

Our databases provide you with access to thousands of articles from scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers. 

NEIU Ronald Williams Library. (2013, Sep 17). What are the library databases and which one should I use? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Understanding Scholarly Articles

Test Your Knowledge!

Which of the following is NOT typical of academic journal articles?
Written by academics who are experts in a field: 8 votes (3.33%)
Goes through peer-review before being published: 24 votes (10%)
Contains a bibliography: 43 votes (17.92%)
Includes lots of images and photographs: 165 votes (68.75%)
Total Votes: 240
Which search will get you better results in Academic Search Complete?
Environmental benefits of rooftop gardens in cities: 61 votes (27.11%)
Environment AND "rooftop gardens": 164 votes (72.89%)
Total Votes: 225

A periodical is anything that comes out with regular issues. Some examples include daily newspapers, weekly magazines, and monthly journals. 

Some periodicals are are "scholarly", "refereed", or "peer-reviewed." These words mean that the articles contained in the periodical are reviewed by experts in the subject. 

Articles are pieces of writing included with other articles in publications such as newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals.

There are significant differences between popular articles found in newspapers and magazines, and scholarly articles found in journals. Before you start your search for articles, it is important to know which type you need.

Your instructor may tell you that you need to use a certain number of scholarly journal articles for your assignment. But how can you be sure the articles you've found are scholarly journal articles?  

Use the table below to help you spot some of the differences between popular and scholarly articles.

  Scholarly Popular
Author A scholar or researcher. Author credentials are provided. Mostly journalists. Journalists are professional writers.
Intended audience Other experts. The general public.
Length 10-50 pages. Usually less than 10 pages.
Structure Articles are organized by headings. Articles tend to be written more like stories.
Language Language is often complex. Language is simple.
Sources An extensive list of sources is provided. No list of sources is provided. Sources are mentioned informally in the article.
Title of publication The title usually contains words such as: journal, annals, or review.  The title may include information about the subject of the magazine.
Publishing process Usually go through a process called "peer review." Other experts in the field evaluate the article.  Articles are reviewed by an editor.

Popular databases

Search Tips

  • Remember that you will need to use keywords, not full sentences, when searching the databases
  • Start out simple. Search using one of the main concepts (keywords) you identified
  • Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase, but do not put quotation marks around your entire search. 

Example of a bad search using a full sentence and a good search, using keywords and short phrases

  • If you get too few results, use OR to broaden your search and to include related keywords. These could be broader, narrower, related terms or synonyms
  • If you still get too few results, try searching in a different database


Screenshot showing the use of OR to connect synonyms in a database search

  • If you get too many results, you will need to add in keywords representing your second concept using AND to narrow your search.  




Screenshot showing a search using AND to narrow results