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Looking for Articles

Everything you need to know to Search for Articles 

search

This page should help you find out everything that you need to know to search for articles.  This page will help you select the best database for your subject and how to do the search. It will help you narrow your topic for a focused search which will get you the results you need.   It will help you determine if an article is from a magazine or a journal or if it is scholarly (peer-reviewed) or not.

If you have questions or need help, contact Common's Reference Desk in Helm (270 745-6125) or your subject specialist librarian. 

 

Searching for an Article

For best results if you are looking for an article you will need to search a database to do it.

searching by holmes 

Google is a wonderful resource for many things.  It can answer lots of questions and is a quick way to get a very broad idea about a subject. Google will give you results, too many results to go through effectively. And all your results will be web pages. If you're lucky, you may get a few articles with your search, but often they will want you to pay to access the article.  And since ANYONE can put up a web page, it means you can't always be sure the information you are getting is valid. It will certainly NOT be scholarly.

Searching for a subject where you need to get journal articles or other scholarly results is best done using a database. That is why you need to look at the Databases that the Library has purchased on your behalf (they're listed on the Library Home Page, just click on the Databases link).

Database results don't contain ANY websites.  Databases  mainly contain Journal Articles (and sometimes Newspaper Articles, Books, Book Chapters, and Thesis, depending on the database).  These articles will come from magazines and scholarly journals.   EVERYTHING you find as a result of your search in a Database has been published.  This means an editor or editors have looked at the material and made sure the facts were right in the article; made sure the article was well written, grammatically correct and properly cited.   

Databases work best when you search one or two keywords (or a short phrase) to locate what you need.

Different Search Strategies video created by ProQuest.

Searching for an Article - Why Use a Database Instead of Google?

google vs databases

Google uses natural language searching, which means, you can ask Google to:

Find a chicken casserole recipe,

or How do I change the battery in my F150 truck?

or What should I feed my otter?  

without worrying about how you ask your question.

Google will give you results, LOTS of results,  and usually the answer you want with these questions in Google.  But searching for a subject where you need to get journal articles and other scholarly results is not easy using Google, or even Google Scholar. 

That is why you need to look at the Databases that the Library has purchased on your behalf.  Database results don't contain ANY websites.  Databases mainly contain Journal Articles (and sometimes Newspaper Articles, Books, Book Chapters, and Thesis, depending on the database).  These articles will come from magazines and scholarly journals.   EVERYTHING you find as a result of your search in a Database has been published.  This means an editor or editors have looked at the material and made sure the facts were right in the article; made sure the article was well written, grammatically correct and properly cited.    Databases don't use natural language searching, so you need to use one or two key words (or short phrases) to search to get the results you need.

dabases vs internet

Choosing a Database

which database?

How to determine which database to use for your subject area.

WKU Libraries Home Page has a link to Research Guides which are library information pages (like this one) for every major and minor WKU offers.  If you are not sure what database to use, visiting the Research Guide for your Subject will help you determine where to look.  Each guide has a tab labeled Articles and Databases.  Click on the Articles and Databases Tab to find a listing of which are the best databases to use for searching for material in your specific subject area. For Example, the Business Research Guide would recommend a business major search in a database like ABI Inform, or Business Source Premiere.  Psychology majors would find databases like: PsycInfo, or Pscyhology and Behavioral Sciences Collection to be recommended as their best choice for research in their major field.

Databases for General Research

These are a few of the most popular databases for general research. You can go into the Research Guides and select on in you major to get advice on which is the best database to use for your particular major's needs.

How to Narrow Your Subject for a More Focused Search Result

Usually researchers start out looking for a topic which gives them a huge number of results (in Google or the Databases).  To get more precise results from your search you will need to narrow your topic.

narrow topic

 

Focus Your Topic

Use some open ended questions to help refine your topic:

  • What causes (or influences)....
  • What factors contribute to.....
  • How effective is.....
  • What is going on with....
  • Why we should agree with....

 

 

boolean logic

venn diagram

 

 

 

Make a Plan

  1. Think about your topic as a question or statement.
  2. Pinpoint the 3-4 main keywords or ideas/concepts in that sentence. .
  3. Think about alternative keywords or ideas that relate to these. Grab a thesaurus or do a Google search.
  4. Make a list of 3 or 4 alternative keywords.
  5. Mix and match these keywords to formulate your search.
  6. Think about what subject area cares enough about your topic to write about it. This will help you identify the best databases to search.

Why should I do this?

  • Most of us don't jump in the car the first morning of Spring Break and take off without looking up our route on Google Maps or packing a suitcase of weather-appropriate clothing, right?  We make a plan because we know it will be worthwhile.
  • We brainstorm alternative keywords/ideas because different authors use different vocabulary and explain their topic in different ways. Also, databases "tag" articles like you can tag photos on Facebook. Different databases will "tag" their articles with different keywords.
  • Having multiple keyword searches to try out will increase your chances of success.
  • Finally, starting your search in a general database (like ProQuest Reserach Library or Academic Search Premier) that covers multiple topics is always a good idea, but you will also find great (and often very different) sources in a subject-specific database, which is why you should consider what disciplines write about your topic. (purdue)

Subject Guide

Jack Montgomery's picture
Jack Montgomery
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Address: 304 Cravens Library, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11067, Bowling Green, KY 42101

270-745-6156
(270) 745-6156
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