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Find Scholarly Articles

Learn to manage research assignments from start to finish, avoid plagiarism, evaluate outside sources, and improve your writing.

Finding scholarly articles

How to find scholarly articles

This page walks you through the mechanics of locating and using articles from scholarly journals in selected NC LIVE databases. See guides for courses (see all course guides) or subjects (see all subject guides) for more specific recommendations.

1. Select a database

The NC LIVE homepage offers a search tool if you're not sure where to start. When you know that you need scholarly articles, your best bet is to search within a database specifically providing academic journals. Some good choices are:

If you're off campus, you will be prompted to log in when you go to any NC LIVE database. Use either your JSCC e-mail address or your library barcode number for access. If you don't have either, sign up for a library card.

2. Do a preliminary search

Try a simple search on your topic. Don't worry if you don't get the best results right away – just get an idea of what's available.

Search terms

Choose a few precise terms (about 2-4) that define your topic in a way that a computer can use. For example:

juvenile diabetes
"jim crow" and "world war ii"
military sexual assault "united states"
hemingway and masculinity

Keep in mind that scholarly publications will likely use more formal or technical language, such as "hydraulic fracturing" instead of "fracking."

Full text

Check the box labeled "Full text" to ensure that all of your results can be read in full. (Some articles are indexed, but do not have the complete article text attached.) If you forget to check the box before you search, don't worry – you can also filter out records without full text on the results page.

Search & scan your results

Just skimming article titles (and perhaps periodical titles or dates), ask:

  • Are there enough results to start working with? If you got very few, first check your search terms for spelling errors, then consider whether your query might be too specific. For instance, hip hop dance and blood pressure won't get many hits, but you can probably find articles on dance and cardiovascular health.
  • Are most of the results (more or less) related to your topic? If not, did you get several from another field? One of your search terms might be too ambiguous – for instance, "composition" can be synonymous with "writing" in some contexts, but it's got several other meanings in the sciences. Try adding another term for clarification or using the search operator not to weed out recurring unrelated hits. On the other hand, if your search is too vague (e.g., educational systems or women and culture), try to narrow your topic.
  • Seeing only newspaper or magazine articles? Use the sidebar search filters. In ProQuest Central, look for "Source type" and select Scholarly Journals. (You may also choose to limit your results to peer-reviewed content.) In Literature Resource Center, choose Literature Criticism under "Content Types," then limit using the options under "Document Type" as needed.

3. Refine your search

When you've got hundreds or thousands of results, don't just dive in! Based on your preliminary search, rewrite your search query (if necessary) to address any problems found in step 2. Use the search operators listed on this page to combine your keywords.

Search limiters

Most databases enable you to restrict your search results based on criteria such as type of publication, date published, and subject heading. (Options vary: a specialized database of newspapers, for instance, will provide different limiters than an e-book database.)

Screencapture of search limiters from ProQuest Central
ProQuest search limiters
In a general database like ProQuest Central, one of the most useful limiters is source type.
Screencapture of source type options from ProQuest Central
As these databases include many different types of publications, you'll often see that your search found results from newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and other sources, as well as from scholarly journals. (Numbers next to the types tell you how many results were found in each category.)
Select (or click on) "Scholarly Journals" to see only results from those publications. Alternatively, you may use "More options…" to choose multiple categories from which you wish to see results.
Screencapture of source type menu with options to include or exclude categories from ProQuest Central

Another valuable limiter is publication date. In ProQuest databases, you can use the bar chart and sliders to restrict results (by decade or year, depending on your results) or select "Enter a specific date range" for more control.

Screencapture of publication date limiter from ProQuest Central

Screencapture of tool to enter specific date limiters from ProQuest Central

When entering a date, you can just enter a year (e.g., 2010) unless you know specific dates that are meaningful to your topic. Ending date should be left blank if you want to find everything published since a certain time.

 

Results sort order

You can determine the order in which your results display by changing the Sort option. Typical options are by date – "newest first" (or "date descending") and "oldest first" (or "date ascending") – or by relevance, which means the results that seem to match your search most closely will come first.

Advanced search

You may also apply limiters and search operators by using Advanced Search. In the Literature Resource Center database, the option to limit to peer-reviewed publications is only found on the advanced search page. (As there is no publication type limiter in LRC, use this option to limit to scholarly publications. Learn about peer review on our Research Process guide.)

Advanced search (partial) from ProQuest Central
Screencapture of advanced search menu from ProQuest Central
Advanced search from Literature Resource Center
Screencapture of advanced search menu from Literature Resource Center
 

4. Read, save, & cite articles

Reading articles: ProQuest

When you select an article in a ProQuest database, you'll first see an abstract, or summary, of the article. The abstract is not the article. (It may not even have been written by the article's author.) When you're using an outside source in a research paper, instructors expect you to quote or paraphrase from the actual full text of the article.

The article may appear below the abstract, with the heading "Full Text." If the abstract is followed instead by the heading "Indexing (details)," you'll need to download the original article as a PDF file using the Full text - PDF link in the sidebar. Even when the article text is below the abstract, it's a good idea to look at the original because (a) there may be transcription or formatting errors in the HTML version and (b) you can find the page numbers you'll need for in-text citations.

Sidebar options from ProQuest article record, including Full text - PDF

Reading articles: Literature Resource Center

Download options for Literature Resource Center article when original PDF is available

Most records with full text in Literature Resource Center have citation and indexing information at the top of the page (title, author, publication, source type, etc.) and the article text below. Again, it's recommended that you download the original article, when available, for the formatting and page numbers. Use the Download link in the toolbar at the top of the article. If original full text is available, there will be a radio button marked "PDF" – make sure this is selected, then press "Download" to get the file.

 

Saving articles

As you'll work on most research assignments over at least a week (often longer), you'll want to keep track of promising articles you've found. You could do this simply by taking careful note of the title, author, and publication information, as well as the database you used, so you can quickly find the article again. It may be even better to save a copy to a flash drive or your personal computer so you can read it even if you can't get online. Follow the instructions above to find the PDF file, open it, then save a copy to your disk or device. (If the text pages don't include the journal name or volume and issue numbers, make and save a note of that missing information, too.)

Another option is to send any interesting articles you find to your e-mail account. Database records include a built-in E-mail link, which allows you to choose what you wish to send and input any address to receive the article.

If you prefer a hard-copy, you should either print the PDF or use the built-in Print link, which will remove any web formatting and prepare a print-friendly version of the article.

Citing articles

Article databases offer machine-generated citations in common styles (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago). These may contain errors – you use them at your own risk. If you decide to copy and paste a citation from a database, make sure to proofread it, checking especially for issues like the order of an author's names, capitalization, and italicization.

Constructing searches

AND narrows a search

  • Results must contain both terms
  • technology AND literacy
  • slavery AND women
  • twain AND criticism

OR broadens a search

  • Results must contain at least one term
  • sex OR gender
  • jail OR prison
  • jobs OR careers OR occupations

NOT excludes a term

  • Results cannot include the following term
  • java NOT coffee
  • radiation NOT cancer
  • Web search engines may use a hyphen, as in jfk -airport

Parentheses ( ) nest operations

  • Enclosed operations are processed first – think order of operations from math class
  • (creationism OR "intelligent design") AND teaching
  • "solar power" OR (green AND energy)

Quotation marks " " keep phrases together

  • Results must contain exact terms in given order
  • "fossil fuels"
  • "amy tan"
  • "tyranny of the majority"

Truncation symbols like * indicate root words

  • Results can include any variation on root
  • histor* = history, histories, historical, historicity
  • cinem* = cinema, cinemas, cinematic, cinematography
  • Some databases may use a different symbol, as in sociol$ – check the help docs

Wildcard symbols allow unknown characters

  • Results include spelling variants
  • wom?n = woman, women, womyn
  • mcl?ughl?n = mcloughlin, mclaughlin, mclaughlan

All websites, articles, images, videos, etc., linked on this site are provided for informational purposes only. External content is not maintained by James Sprunt Community College, nor does it represent the views of the College or its employees. Please notify the library staff if you have concerns about linked content. Students are expected to evaluate all web and print resources and to determine their appropriate academic uses. A hyperlink to a resource or article from these LibGuides does not constitute an endorsement of that resource or article by the library.

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