Category Archives: Articles

Finding, citing and evaluating articles.

Finding, citing & evaluating articles: pt. 1: subject databases

Subject Databases

Finding articles:  background

To make finding articles easier:

  • you need a good research question
  • you need good keywords and/or  key phrases
  • you need to use your keywords and phrases to develop a good search statement.  A search statement is just putting your keywords and key phrases together using AND, OR and NOT (see below)
  • you need to search for articles  in the right places
  • you need to choose articles that are:
    • directly relevant
    • the right type of article (scholarly, popular, primary, etc.)
    • good quality

In this reading, we’re going to look at using subject databases to find articles.  In the next reading, we’ll look at using OneSearch and finish up in the third reading by looking at scholarly search engines such as Google Scholar & PubMed.

There are some basic terms you need to know to be able to find the best articles.

  • Article:  a written piece of non-fiction, complete in itself, found in periodicals, on the web and, sometimes in books. (adapted from:
  • Periodical: a published work that appears in a new version on a regular schedule. The most common examples are journals, magazines and newspapers.  Periodicals may available be in print, online or, for older ones, on microform. (adapted from:
  •  Journal:  a periodical that contains scholarly articles.  Most articles are  peer reviewed (also known as refereed.)  CAUTION:  even scholarly journals contain material that is not scholarly, such as opinions, letters, editorials, book reviews, etc.
  • Trade journals.  The articles in trade journals are aimed at people in a specific field.  Most articles are related to how work is done in that field.
  •  Magazine:  a periodical whose content is aimed at a general audience.  Most magazines are published weekly or monthly.   Articles in magazines are popular or trade.
    • Just to make life more confusing, there are a few magazines that contain scholarly articles.  Science (US) and Nature (UK) are the most famous examples.  These magazines, and a few others that publish scholarly articles, date back into the late 1800s when the terms were less defined.   Unless told otherwise, assume a periodical is popular if it has “magazine” in its title.
  •  Newspapers: periodicals that are published daily and sometimes weekly (usually in smaller towns.)  Their content is popular.
  •  News Reports:  These are the video and online equivalent of newspaper articles.  They may be written articles on a news site such as CNN, or they can be video reports from broadcast, cable/satellite or online sources such as ABC, CBS,NBC, & PBS among others.  Treat them as you would a newspaper article.  CAUTION:  video reports can be good sources, but not all instructors accept them.  Ask first!
  •  Newsletters are a subcategory of newspapers.  They may be print or online.
    • Much smaller – often just two or 3 regular size pages
    • Usually monthly or quarterly (four times a year.)
    • Often trade:  Public Health Nursing Newsletter
    • Can be popular:  Berkeley Wellness Newsletter
    • Instructors usually prefer a journal, magazine or newspaper article over a newsletter article.
CAUTION:  magazines, newspapers and newsletters often report on studies of interest to their readers.  These articles are NOT scholarly.   How do you tell?  The original study will be in a journal, it will have a section on methodology,  and an extensive reference list.  A report on the study in a popular periodical will often include who did the study and where they got the information.  This is usually enough to help you find the original study.  If you have problems, ask a librarian for help.
As usual, reports on historical topics are a bit trickier.  Basically, if it’s in a magazine or newspaper or on the web, assume that you need to find the original article. As with more scientific topics, a good popular article will give you enough information to find the original.
Articles  not in periodicals:  these days you can find articles on the web that are  not in periodicals.  These include general web pages, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, etc.  See the sections on web sources.
Library article databases:  specialized search engines that search databases containing articles.  Article databases  can be general, covering many fields, for example:  Academic Search Premier.  They can also be very specific, covering one field or a group of related fields, for example:  PsycInfo.  
The articles in  databases come from periodicals and occasionally books.  Many are available in full-text.  Full-text may be available  from the database you’re searching, or you may need to click a link and find the full-text in a different database.
In a few cases, you may need to borrow the article on interlibrary loan.  Often, you can get an article in 24 – 48 hours (Monday – Friday).  Often is not always. Do NOT count on all articles arriving in 24 – 48 hours, especially not during the last few weeks of the semester.
For additional definitions, see the Glossary of Library Terms on Canvas.  On the course home page, look at the right menu near the center.   Click on the link.  Once you’re on the page, click on the PDF link to pull up the file.
NEVER, EVER  PAY for an article.  I repeat:  NEVER, EVER  PAY for an article.   Check with the reference desk for ways to find it or get it for free  from interlibrary loan.
Back to important definitions:
EBSCO/Ebscohost is NOT a database.  EBSCO is a vendor or publisher  (selling & publishing  publisher (putting the content on the web) and an aggregator (collecting content from different journals, magazines, etc.)     EBSCOHost is the  platform, or software, you use to access the information.
Proquest and Gale Cengage are two of the largest database vendors/publishers and aggregators after Ebsco.
  • You must keep track of which database you are using:
    • to make sure you don’t search the same database over and over
    • because some citation styles require you to use the database name in the citation
    • to make it easy for you to find again
The fastest way is to keep track of databases is to keep a list of the names you click on in the library’s list of databases.  Keep a Word or Google Drive or Docs document or put all downloads from a database into a file labeled with a name such as ABI/Inform Global.  However you do it, keep track.  You’ll be happy you did once you start writing the paper.

 Finding articles:  search statements

A search statement is what you type in the find information.  It can be as simple as one word, or as complex as several phrases combined using the boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
People usually find it easier to figure out search statements if they can see the steps, so check below for a step by step description of the process.

Finding articles:  choosing a subject database

After you’ve come up with your keywords/phrases and a basic search statement, the next step is choosing the best subject database.   Once you learn about OneSearch and Google Scholar (or maybe you already use them), you may wonder why you need to use subject databases.  There are several reasons:
  • They are often the best and fastest to place to find good articles on a topic
  • You may be required to use them for upper level courses
  • Often, your instructor will require you to use subject databases

How do you tell the best databases in your field?

  • Do it the easy way:  ask a librarian.
  • Click on the blue pancakes icon on the library’s home page and find the subject closest to your topic.
    • The top 2 – 5 databases are listed for each subject area
    • Check the descriptions.  If the top databases don’t work, scroll down and read down the titles and descriptions until you find one that suits your topic.
Avoid these Ebscohost databases:
  • Searchasaurus – this is aimed at grade school students
  • Primary Search – also aimed at grade school students
  • Middle Search – aimed at middle school students
Use with care:
  • TopicSearch – a current events database aimed at high school students
  • MAS Ultra – aimed at high school students.   It’s okay to use, but has mostly popular sources.

NOTE:  most of the information in the above databases is also found in Academic Search Premier

  SEE my list of suggested databases on Canvas.  Go to the course home page.  On the left side, click on  “Pages”  Click on the “all pages” button above the text, then click on the “Suggested Databases” link.

 Tips for choosing the best database
  •  look at the requirements for your paper or project
  • determine what kinds of sources you need:  primary/second, popular/scholarly/trade. (Check out Information Types & Formats if you don’t remember what each is)
    • Some databases, such as Academic Search Premier, have scholarly, popular & trade journals, magazines and newspapers.  Academic Search Premier is a good database to begin with for most topics.
    • Some databases, such as Sociological Abstracts, focus on one subject and have only (or mostly) scholarly articles.
    • Some databases, such as Proquest Newsstand cover many subjects and have only popular and trade articles.
 REMEMBER:  As a rule, only newspaper and magazine articles are available for very current topics.  It can take a year or more for a scholarly article to be published, even in a journal that’s only published online, because of the review process.

Finding Articles:  searching subject databases

In this section, we’ll look at developing a good search statement.  Remember that when you’re looking for articles you need a more specific search statement than you will when searching for books.  There are a lot more articles than books and articles are about more specific topics than books.  This means you can focus your search more than you can when looking for books.
Won’t a general search statement work for articles?  Yes, if you want to wade through pages of articles and cross your fingers you’ll get lucky and find something on the first page.  Using a good search statement will make it possible for you to find better articles without scrolling through pages of articles.
A focused topic with fewer but better sources is a lot easier to write about than trying to figure out what to write about from a big pile of papers.
More is NOT better when it comes to searching for academic resources.

The bad news about search statements is that you may need to tweak  or even rewrite your search statement to find the best articles.

I’m going to start with Academic Search Premier.

NOTE:  I am using an older research question because it shows more clearly how you may need to play around with words and phrases and their order.  Searching for information about people, such as Galla Placidia, is always easier because the one important term you’re looking for is a person’s name.  Even name searching can be a problem, though, if the person used different names or spellings or you are dealing with names from a language such as Chinese, where there are several different ways of spelling the name in English..

Because most databases share similar structures, what you learn using Academic Search Premier as an example will transfer to other library subject databases.   The trick is to avoid letting the superficial differences get in the way. Focusing on the similarities between databases will make it easier for you to learn how to use new databases on your own.  OR, you can just ask a librarian for help.  Remember, we have phone, text, chat and email, plus you can always stop by the reference desk and ask.

Most article databases begin with a basic search page. Usually, you will see a single search box that looks like Google.    Like Google, library databases allow you to limit your search.  Unlike Google, they have many more options.  Dates, type of article, location, etc. are all things you can use to limit your search to the most useful articles.

DO NOT LIMIT TO FULLTEXT BEFORE SEARCHING!  If you limit before searching, you will miss all the articles that are available from other databases and make the search harder for yourself.

If the basic search plus limits is not finding what you need, then look for a link that says Advanced Search.  It will give you more options than you probably want.  When using advanced search you need to read the directions or go the easy route and ask a librarian.

The research question I’m using for this reading is:  Did Lord Elgin’s contemporaries consider his acquisition of the Parthenon marbles legal?  The keywords/phrases I developed are:  “Elgin Marbles,”  “Parthenon marbles,” controversy, acquisition, legality, contemporary.

First, you need to access the database.  You can do this from home or on-campus.  If you’re at home, the system will ask you for your Weber user name and password.  This is your regular Weber user  name and password that you use for the portal, Canvas, etc.  NOTE:  you may not be able to access databases from work – it depends on the security setup.

Pioneer:  Utah’s Online Library

You can access Academic Search Premier and many other databases without signing in at:  the new link is: – both links are still working for now.   In the first column, click on:  Alphabetical List and Information About All Databases (or follow this link.)  If the name has either Restricted Access or Library Card Required, you will need a public library card to access – a few may be accessible only to K-12 students.  Databases that don’t require a sign in are available only within the boundaries of the state of Utah.  If you’re out-of-state, you will need to use Stewart Library’s databases or access databases from your public library home page and use your public library card to sign in. (If you’re interested, the databases that don’t require a sign-in use geolocation – you’re considered an acceptable patron as long as you stay in-state – the system recognizes Utah based internet addresses.)

Stewart Library has a large number of specialty databases that aren’t available via Pioneer or public libraries, so you may need to use our databases as well.  If you are no longer a student, you are welcome to walk in and use the databases in the library.  Only current students, faculty & staff can use databases from home or other off campus locations.

You must access WSU databases through the library’s website to get access.

Go to:  Click on the blue pancakes icon.  You’ll see a link to Academic Search Premier (ASP) right above the list of letters.  If you are off-campus, you will be asked for a user name and password.  This is your usual WSU username and password.


Let’s start with the basic search page.  (Remember to click on the image to enlarge it.)

Basic Search Screen for Academic Search Premier

Ebsco Basic Search Screen
Courtesy EBSCO

Let’s focus just on the search box.  Type in your search.  Usually, you’ll need to use several terms.  Not sure whether to use AND or not?  Try the search without AND.  If you find what you want, great.  If not, search again, using AND.   Remember to indicate key phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks.

So, for my research question: Did Lord Elgin’s contemporaries consider his acquisition of the Parthenon marbles legal?   I need to start with a specific search statement.  Remember,  you need to be specific when you search for articles.  So, I might start with something like:

Academic Search Premier basic search screen

Ebsco Basic Search Screen – this one is Academic Search Premier
Courtesy of Ebsco


And, I’ll get something like this:

An Academic Search Premier search with no results

Academic Search Premier – no results
Courtesy of Ebsco

Most people’s immediate reaction is to broaden the search.  I probably do have too many keywords/phrases.  However, I also need to change my keywords/phrases.  Usually, when you don’t find anything, you need to subtract keywords and not use as many.   Next, try different keywords.   Occasionally, you will need to change databases.  For this topic, I might want to try an art database.

Not sure what the Parthenon Marbles (AKA Elgin Marbles) are?  Check out the Wikipedia article.

Now it’s time to start playing around with terms, boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT) and with the number of keywords/phrases.

  • I start by dropping “acquisition” and “controversy” since those terms are understood for this subject.   (this technique does not work for all subjects)
  • Next, I try replacing some of my terms.  I try: “Elgin Marbles” AND history AND legality.  
    • Keywords  like “contemporary” don’t really work unless you’re looking for something like “contemporary art.”
    • History” gets at the idea that I want to find information on Lord Elgin’s time.
    • I find one article, but it’s about the current debate over repatriation of the marbles and it doesn’t discuss the views of people in Lord Elgin’s time.
  • I try “Elgin Marbles” AND history AND controversy
    • I find another article, but it’s about the current debate, too.
    • It mentions the fact that Lord Elgin’ contemporaries felt what he had done was illegal,  but one sentence is not enough.   As a rule, you need several on-topic paragraphs before you can claim an article is a source.
  • Since the marbles are controversial and the previous article mentions people at the time felt what he did was illegal, I drop controversy and type in:  “Lord Elgin” AND marbles AND history.
    • I find several articles and a couple of them have information.  The articles are relevant, but don’t provide much information.
  •  NOTE:  I might have decided that my problem was the fact that I didn’t know if it was better to use “legality” or “legal.”  You can search for both terms in two different ways.
    • Use OR.  Remember to put parentheses around the terms connected with OR.  So:   (legal OR legality)
    • Another way is to use truncation.
      •  The * symbol (shift-8 on the keyboard) will find different endings starting from the letter before the *. So, if I type legal*, the system would find:  legal, legality.  Histor* would find history, historieshistorical, historian.
      • Be careful not to truncate too much.  Rat* finds rat, rats, ratio, rational, rationale, rating, ratings, etc.  This is too general to be useful.  In fact, you will just make work for yourself if you truncate too much.
      • The asterisk (*) is a wildcard.  When you use a wildcard to find different endings, you are using truncation.
    • NOTE:  Most search engines do not allow truncation or wildcards.  They do something called stemming, which produces results similar  to truncation.  If stemming doesn’t help, then combine the terms with OR – remember to put parentheses around the terms connected with OR.  NOTE:  Google & Google Scholar now allow truncation using the asterisk symbol (*.)

At this point, I need to switch to a more specific database such as Art Fulltext.  Art Fulltext looks like Academic Search Premier, but covers more art journals and doesn’t cover general magazines and newspapers.  I’m going to use the search that worked best in Academic Search Premier.


Art Fulltext basic screen

Basic search screen for Art Fulltext (Ebsco.)
Courtesy of Ebsco.


This search finds two articles.  The first one looks really good until I read the abstract.  It may have a little bit of information, but not a lot.

How to read the Art Fulltext result screen.

How to read the Art Fulltext result screen.
Courtesy of Ebsco.


I try a couple of other searches  – “Lord Elgin AND history AND marbles is the first search.  The second search is “Lord Elgin AND  legal* (note the use of truncation.)    I decided that I didn’t need to use “marbles” as a term because article in an art database would most likely be about the Elgin Marbles.

I found about 10 more articles, but none of them were really relevant.  At this point, I decide to use a database that covers history and art – JSTOR.  JSTOR stands for Journal Storage.  JSTOR was created to make sure that the online versions of older journals (and a few magazines) were kept.   In the beginning, JSTOR had only the older articles.  Now there are some current articles, plus some books. (NOTE:  we do not have access to the books or the current articles.)

However, most of the JSTOR database still consists of articles that are at least 3-5 years old.  The majority of these articles are available in fulltext.  Because of the subjects that it covers, JSTOR can be a very good place to look for articles on history and art and even some science subjects.  However, because you are missing the most recent 3-5 years, you must check another database for more current information.  If you don’t check for more current articles, you could miss a critically important paper.

Never use JSTOR alone.  Always check a different article database for more current information.


Doing a search on JSTOR.

Doing a search on JSTOR.
Courtesy of JSTOR.


ALWAYS USE ADVANCED SEARCH ON JSTOR.  ALWAYS!  (Unless you like doing extra work.)


JSTOR results page.

JSTOR results page.
Courtesy of JSTOR.


This time, I found 65 sources and some of them are relevant to  my topic.  However, a lot of the sources have nothing to do with my topic. If I only needed two or three articles, I’d probably browse through until I found a couple that would work.

If you need more than two or three articles, there are several things you can do. The easiest way to find more sources is to look at the record for one of the relevant sources, see what subject and/or title terms they used and try some of them.  If  you’ve tried several different searches and still don’t find anything, you probably need to switch to a different database or do it the easy way and ask a librarian for ideas.

Sometimes you can get a list of subject headings from the results list. (Note:  for JSTOR, you need to look at the article title and the abstract or article summary if there is one.)

Finding keywords on the results screen. Courtesy of Ebsco.

Finding keywords on the results screen.
Courtesy of Ebsco.

Other times, you need to look at the complete record.  Click on the article title to pull up the record. (On Ebsco databases, you can also mouse over the page icon with the magnifying glass on the right of the title.)

Finding keywords on a full record.

Finding keywords on a full record.
Courtesy of Ebsco.

Avoid the temptation to limit to full text.  Limiting to full text could result in you missing the perfect article.  When you click on the Find Fulltext link,  you may get several different responses:

  • the system will  take you directly to the article
  • the system will take you to the journal’s home page.  You must then find the right year, volume, page number, etc.  For older articles, you will often need to find a link to Archives
  • the system will take you to a database page – look for the PDF link to access the article
  • the system will take you to a journal finding page.   The page will often have 2 or more options.  Look at the dates and choose the one that covers the date your article was published
    NOTE:  if you have a choice, avoid EJS and Lexis/Nexis links
  • the system will take you to a page that states you will need to get the article via interlibrary loan.  There will be a button to click on to go to the ILL form. Remember, we can often get articles in 24-48 hours, Monday – Friday.

NOTE:  Occasionally, you’ll run into a topic where we don’t seem to have any fulltext.  That happened to me with this topic.  I had to go to the second page to find an example.  If you can’t find full text for an article you want,  ask a librarian to show you how to use interlibrary loan – we can usually get an article for you (electronically, from another library) in 24-48 hours.  During the last few weeks of school, it may take longer.

Once you find the article in another database, you need to find the PDF of the article.  Always click on the PDF to make sure you get any charts, graphics, images, etc.   You may have to search for the PDF link.  Usually, it’s somewhere near the start of the article.  However, it can be at the top right or left of the page, right about the article text, under a picture of the issue, buried in the citation information, etc.  Having trouble?  Ask for help.


Always try to find the PDF of your article.

Always try to find the PDF of your article.
Courtesy of JSTOR


Need more articles?  If you found a lot on Academic Search Premier, you can use them or you can redo your search using different keywords.  However, you might find  better articles by changing to a subject specific database.  As was the case with my topic, I had to try a couple of different subject specific databases. (Welcome to the wonderful world of historical research.)

Remember – library article databases may look different, but with the exception of specialty databases (for example:  accounting), they are structured the same.  You just need to look around, figure out what’s going on and then start to search.  As always, you can go the easy route and ask a librarian for help.


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Finding, citing & evaluating articles: finding pt. 2: OneSearch


In the reading on Evaluation, I wrote:

Back in the dark ages when I was an undergraduate, sources were hard to find but easy to evaluate. Students these days have the opposite problem. Sources are very easy to find, but can be very hard to evaluate.

While sources are very easy to find, finding the types of sources your professor wants you  to use can be difficult for a number of reasons:

  • you don’t know where to look
  • you don’t know the best library database  for your topic
  • you don’t know what a library database is (much less how to use it)
  • you don’t really know what the professor wants
  • you really just want to use Google and Wikipedia and be done with it

We’ve tried to simplify the process in several ways:

  • the Library  website has a list of databases arranged by title and by subject.
    • On the Library’s home page, click on the blue pancakes icon (center).
      • Choose the subject area closest to your topic
      • The most important databases in that subject are listed at the top
  • We create subject and class specific guides, called Libguides, that suggest the best databases for a specific subject areas.

While these lists and guides can be useful, they don’t always help:

  • we have over 235 databases, but we only refer to a small number on any given guide.
  • if you’re doing research that is interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or multidisciplinary ;for example, a B.I.S capstone project, you may need to look in three or four or more databases, plus a scholarly search engine such as Google Scholar.

Over the past few years, companies have responded to this problem by developing discovery systems.  In the simplest terms, a discovery system encompasses most of a library’s information – books, articles, streaming music and videos, and digitized information from the University’s Archives and Special Collections.  (This means you can find primary documents from Special Collections & Archives that have been digitized.)

Stewart Library has implemented  a discovery system we’re calling OneSearch.  The company calls the system Summon, which you may see occasionally.

Using OneSearch  

OneSearch URL:  or find a search box in the center  of the library’s home page.

NOTE:  if you are searching off-campus ALWAYS click on the small OneSearch link under the search box.  You must sign in from off-campus if you want to find the fulltext articles.

The OneSearch search box is similar to other search boxes.  (Click on the image to enlarge.)


OneSearch basic search screende

OneSearch basic search screen


If you’re off campus, OneSearch works a bit differently from our other databases.  You can do a search and read through the results (citations & abstracts) without typing in your WSU user name and password.   When you click on a “Find Fulltext”  link OneSearch will  ask for your user name & password then.

HOWEVER, the problem with searching without logging in is that you’ll miss things from a number of our most important subject databases such as PsycInfo, Econlit, MLA Bibliography and America:  History and Life.   These (and a few others) are  indexing and abstracting databases.  That means all you get is a citation and abstract or summary and if you’re lucky, a link to an article in another database.

If you’re off-campus, just log in and you won’t have to worry about it.

OFF CAMPUS?  BE SURE TO LOG IN BY CLICKING ON THE LINK IN THE UPPER LEFT HAND CORNER.  Ignore the log in link on the upper right hand corner.
NOTE: bar color is now bluish rather than yellow.


Once you’ve done a search, you’ll get a result screen.  On the left side, there’s a menu you can use to limit your search in various ways. The right side is the preview pane.  As you mouse over a title,  you’ll see information about the source appear. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The OneSearch results page.

111111 The OneSearch results page.

Need to narrow your search?  Use the limits from the menu on the left side.  You can narrow by date, by peer review, by journal article or subject matter.  The numbers after each option indicate the number of sources left when you use that limit.

Example of the limit fields

Use the limits on the left to eliminate sources that aren’t useful for you.

When should you use OneSearch?  It’s best for lower level research and research where an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach is need.  Or when you haven’t found anything using our other databases.

OneSearch is also good for searching databases we don’t own:  databases owned by other schools who use the same system can be searched if you check the “include results from outside your library’s collection.”

If you want to use OneSearch to search for materials for advanced classes, be sure to use the Advanced Search feature.  Find it by clicking the icon (it changes depending on the browser you’re using) to the right of the Search button on the basic search page.

Doing advanced work?  Figure out the best databases in your field and use them directly.  Individual databases will always have more powerful search features and take you to good articles more directly

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Finding, citing & evaluating articles: finding pt. 3: scholarly search engines

Scholarly Search Engines

Stewart Library has access to over 230 article databases.  That’s a small percentage of what’s available.  The University of Utah, Utah State and BYU all have many databases that we do not.

You can walk into those libraries and use their databases (you can also use your Wildcard to checkout books.)   However, unless you’re doing in-depth research for a senior thesis,  capstone project or undergraduate research grant, you probably don’t need to head south (or north.)

Scholarly search engines can often fill in gaps in the subject content covered by Stewart Library’s databases.  The two  most useful ones are Google Scholar, and Pubmed.  A third, Scirius, has unfortunately ceased operation. MicroSoft Academic Search has some nice features, but is currently dormant with only a small database to search.  Wolfram Alpha works best for finding specific answers, especially in science & mathematics.  It does not have the kind of articles you need to find for papers.

Google Scholar

Let’s look at Google Scholar first.  Like Academic Search PremierGoogle Scholar covers all fields.

  • The first thing you need to do is to set Google Scholar  up to link to Stewart Library articles.
  • Once you’ve completed the setup, go directly to:
  • Start by typing your research question (not your search statement) into the search box.
  • If you aren’t finding many useful articles,  try using a search statement.
  • If you have access to the article via Stewart Library, there will be a link saying Full-text @ Weber State
  • You may also be able to link to full articles elsewhere.  Look for links that say something like:  PDF from …  Be careful that you have the full article.  Some links go to draft versions.
  • Can’t find a link?  Try clicking on the versions link (for example:  All 7 versions).  You’ll find a link to the article just often enough to make it worth your time clicking the link.

Google Scholar has another useful feature:  “cited by.”  If you click on the cited by link, it takes you to a list of articles that use the original article you found in their works cited/bibliography/reference list.  This is an easy way to find more articles related to your topic.  For older articles, a large number of “cited by” references can be used as a rough indication of the importance of the article.  The more the article is cited, the more important (usually) it is.

CAUTION:  Google Scholar contains different types of sources.  It is your responsibility to be able to tell the difference between a book, an article, a patent, etc.   Google Scholar labels books [BOOK], but you’re on your own for articles and other types of sources.  One type of source you may find is a white paper.  White papers are not usually considered scholarly.  Most are policy statements on a specific issue written by people who are experts in the field.  However, they are not peer reviewed or refereed as a rule.  White papers can be very valuable sources, but make sure your instructor accepts them.  Ask, don’t just stick them in  your reference list and cross your fingers.  Professors in fields like political science, social work and sociology are more likely to accept white papers as sources.

Google Scholar does have an advanced search, but they’ve simplified it and unfortunately have dropped a number of useful limits.

To access information from the library, look for the Full text @ Weber State  link.  (These images date to a period before we changed the link name.)

Using Google Scholar.

Using Google Scholar.
Courtesy of Google.

Click on the Full-Text@Weber State.  In most cases, this will take you directly to the article. Occasionally, the system won’t find the article and you’ll need to look it up.  The information you need is on the right sidebar.  If you haven’t signed in already, the system will prompt you for your WSU user name and password before letting you see the article.


The OneSearch linking page

The OneSearch linking page
Courtesy of JSTOR & Proquest

The linking system is good, but it is not 100% accurate.  If you can’t find an important article, ask a librarian for other options.

CAUTION:   If you consistently use Google Scholar (and regular Google) on the same  computer, it brings up results that the system thinks you will like based on your previous searches.  That means you might miss a really good article.  The easy way to get around this is to use a school or work computer when you need to make sure you’ve got all possible sources.   The less easy way is to clear your history, cookies, etc.  You can also try a search engine that doesn’t track your searches, such as duckduckgo; however, it doesn’t list many scholarly articles.


The second important scholarly search engine is Pubmed.  Unlike Google Scholar, Pubmed  focuses on the health sciences, which limits its usefulness in other fields.  Pubmed does list historical articles, but they are related to the history of medicine.  If you are writing a paper on Typhoid Mary or cholera and the westward movement or the Black Death, check Pubmed.

Pubmed has the full text of many articles available free of charge to everyone.

Accessing PubMed (PMC)

Accessing PubMed (PMC)
Courtesy NIH.

Searching PubMed (PMC)

Searching PubMed (PMC)
Courtesy NIH


In most cases, you can find what you need on PubMed.  However, if you want to search a broader range of articles, try PubMed/Medline.   This database has some fulltext.  You need to go through the Stewart Library link to see what’s available.  PubMed/Medline is listed on the Article Databases page under “P” or the various “Health” subjects.

The scholarly search engines can be very useful back ups for the library databases; however, they do not replace library databases.  In most cases, you need to start with library databases.

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Finding, citing & evaluating articles: citing


CITING SOURCES IS AN ART, NOT A SCIENCE.  There are several ways to interpret the components of the various styles.  The final authority is your instructor for that particular project. Don’t remember the basics of why and how?  Check the Giving Credit post.    Again, the   OWL at Purdue University  is a really good online guide to the most common styles.   (OWL stands for Online Writing Lab.)

Remember – for this class you must use MLA 7th edition,  APA 6th edition, or Turabian  8th (= Chicago  16th.)

NOTE:  MLA 8th came out Spring 2016.  Check with your instructor to see which edition they want you to use.  If they say MLA 8th, then check for changes.

Citing articles is more difficult than citing books because the exact format of the citation varies depending on what kind of periodical you need to cite and where you found the article:  in print, in a library article database or just out on the general web.

You can either build a citation using information from the  article, use the Word reference system, use eTurabian, or use a  database “cite” feature. Most library databases and Google Scholar have a “cite” feature that will do most of  the work for you.  Be careful!  These citation features are rarely completely accurate.  In most cases, the differences are small, but occasionally there are major issues. The most common error is capitalizing incorrectly.  The systems seem to prefer doing titles in all caps, which is incorrect unless you’re reading a story with a title like “POW!  BAM!! WOW!!!”

For most instructors, using either a database “cite” feature  or using the Word reference system is acceptable – as long as you use it correctly. However, if you ever have an instructor who likes to see every “i” dotted,  every “t” crossed, and everything else in the right place, you will need to get very familiar with the OWL @ Purdue  or the print manuals for APA 6th, MLA 7th or Turabian 8th. (We now have the Chicago Manual of Style online, but the OWL @ Purdue is easier to use.)

There are a few terms you need to know before doing article citations.

  • DOI:
    DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. The DOI is a set of numbers that uniquely identifies a piece of digital information.   Think of it as a social security number for articles.   You will need to use DOIs when you do APA and Chicago/Turabian citations.  You do NOT need DOIs for MLA – yet.  NOTE:  As of MLA 8th edition, DOIs are required in some cases.
  • Magazine – a popular source, aimed at a general audience.  Examples include Time, People, and Scientific American.  You can find magazines at the grocery store, airport, etc.
  • Newspapers – also a popular source aimed at a general audience.  Most newspapers come out more frequently than magazines.   The New York TimesSalt Lake Tribune, and the Standard Examiner are all daily newspapers.  Newspapers in small towns may come out just once or twice a week. The Wall Street Journal is an example of a newspaper that has a trade as well as a popular audience.  CNN, ABC and the BBC  are examples of news sources that provide  “print” information on the web in addition to their videos.  Articles from these sites can be cited as you would cite articles from online newspapers unless you are given a different format to follow.
  • Scholarly journals –  also called peer reviewed or refereed or academic.  These scholarly sources are aimed at specialists in a field and students learning the field.  Scholarly journals are usually peer reviewed or refereed – in other words,  experts (unknown to the author) look at the article and okay it (or not) for publication.
  • Web articles – these articles can be popular, scholarly or trade.  There are two categories:  those that published both in print and online and those that are published online only.  Those published online only can be anything from formal, scholarly articles published in an online only journal (still fairly rare) to blog posts and Wikipedia entries.
  • Database publishers  – MLA style requires you to use the database publisher in the citation.  Our most common database publishers are:  EBSCO, Proquest, ScienceDirect, JSTOR, Wiley, Lexis/Nexis, Gale/Cengage and Sage.  If you’re not sure what the publisher’s name is,  check the bottom of the main search page for the copyright date.  The name next to the copyright date is usually the database publisher.
  • MLA mediums of publication –  MLA now requires what it calls a medium of publication.  In most cases, you will use Print, if you read it on paper or microform,  or Web if you read it online.  However, if you have a fussy instructor or are using less common formats, you will need to use other terms.  Check out the list at the Searching High and Low blog. NOTE:  You may see “media” rather than “mediums.” Media is the Latin plural of medium and may be used instead mediums.
    NOTE:  MLA 8th no longer uses medium of publication.

Basic citation pattern for articles When citing periodicals, the easiest way is to use a website like the OWL@Purdue or use the print manuals to look up information as you need it.  However, it can be useful to look at the general patterns for APA , MLA  and Turabian articles.  The examples below represent citations for an article in a scholarly journal.  Pay attention to punctuation and to what is and what is not italicized.

  • APA 6th edition

Author. (Year).Title of article.Title of Journal,volume number(issue number), page numbers.doi:0000/00000 (or URL for journal’s home page if no DOI.)

  • MLA 7th edition

Author. “Title of Article.”Title of Journal volume.issue, (date): page numbers.Database publisher. Web. Day Mon. year.

  • Turabian 8th   There are actually two versions of Turabian.  One is used more by the social sciences and sciences, the other by the humanities.  The main difference is where you put the year of publication. The author/date version is similar to APA style.  The humanities version is similar to MLA, without the medium of publication.

Author.  Year. “Title of Article.”  Title of Journal  vol.#, issue#  (month if available):  page numbers.  Accessed Month day, year.  online locator. (DOI, URL or database name in order of preference)     (Social Sciences)


Author. “Title of Article.”  Title of Journal  vol#, issue# (month day,year): pages.  Accessed Month day, year. online locator. (DOI, URL or database name in order of preference)       (Humanities)

  • DATE information (article):  Use what you have.  So, if you have June 5, 1998 use that.  If you only have the month use June, 1998, and if you only have the year, use 1998.
  • DOI:  if the DOI starts with http://  just copy the whole thing.  If the DOI starts with a number, put:
  • URL:  use the stable, perma or permanent link to the article (not the database.)  With the exception of Lexis/Nexis and Science Direct, do not use the address in the bar at top – you must find the permanent link.
  • DATABASE NAME:  you must use the specific database name:  Academic Search Premier, NOT Ebsco or Ebscohost.
    NOTE:  Ebsco is the publisher,  Ebscohost is the software platform, and Academic Search Premier is the database name.

Remember, these are just basic patterns.  You’ll need to adjust them depending on the type of periodical source and where you found it.

Database “cite” features

Many databases now have “cite” features that automatically generate citations in the format of your choice.  Be sure to check these over – they are not always correct.



Ebsco cite feature

Click on the “cite” button to bring up the citation in various formats.
Courtesy of Ebsco

Ebsco formatted citations

Ebsco citation choices.
Courtesy of Ebsco



One Search cite screen

Your can use the cite feature on OneSearch. However, it’s usually better to use the “cite” feature from the database you find the article in – it is more likely to have the correct options.
Courtesy of Proquest


The citation formatted by OneSearch.

No, it doesn’t have Chicago/Turabian humanities. Check out the database the article appears in or use eTurabian.
Courtesy of Proquest


Check out eTurabian (it also does APA & MLA):

eTurabian home page

The eTurabian home page. Use this screen to identify the type of citation you want to do.
Courtesy of eTurabian.


eTurbian citation page

Use this screen to fill out citation information.
Courtesy of eTurabian.

Word reference system

If you use the Word reference system, the main thing to remember is that you have to put the right information in the right box.  You will also need to check the box at the bottom of the first page to get all of the boxes  you’ll need.  (Note:  Word 2013/Office 365 has all or almost all of the necessary boxes on the first screen.) Remember, Word defines things differently:

  • Notes – Word calls notes, citations  (regular = notes, Word = citations)
  • Citations – Word calls citations, sources in bibliographies, reference lists or works cited lists (regular= citations or reference, Word = sources)
  • I used Word 2007 and 2010 for the illustrations.  Word 2013 is very similar.
Using word to do citations.

Getting started on a citation.
Courtesy of Microsoft


Second page of using Word to do citations

Getting started on a citation 2
Courtesy of Microsoft

Once you click on Add New Source, you will get a screen with boxes

  • Fill in the boxes with your source information.
  • See the examples below.

The following examples are for articles in online journals.  To use with other types and formats of periodicals, just change which boxes you fill in  using OWL@Purdue or a similar manual to guide you in putting the right information in the right box.

You must put the right information in the right boxes; you must also capitalize and use punctuation correctly – Word will NOT fix problems for you.


Using Word to do a journal citaton.

Using Word for a journal citation.
Courtesy of Microsoft.


Word for an MLA citation.

Using Word to do an MLA citation. Note the box for “medium” of publication.
Courtesy of Microsoft.

Example of MLA journal citation using Word.

Example of MLA journal citation using Word.
Courtesy of Microsoft.

Second screen of an MLA citation using Word.

Second screen of an MLA citation using Word.
Courtesy of Microsoft.


Doing an APA journal citation in Word.

Doing an APA journal citation in Word.
Courtesy of Microsoft.

Second screen - using Word to do an APA journal citation.

Using Word to do an APA journal citation, second screen. Courtesy of Microsoft.

How to use a DOI in a Word APA journal citation.

How to use a DOI in a Word APA journal citation.
Courtesy of Microsoft.



Using Word to create a citation in Turabian format.

Using Word to create a citation in Turabian format.
Courtesy of Microsoft


Adding extra authors on Word. Courtesy of Microsoft.

Adding extra authors on Word.
Courtesy of Microsoft.

Doing a Turabian citation in Word - part 2.

Doing a Turabian citation in Word – part 2.
Courtesy of Microsoft.


Remember the steps in doing a citation

  1. Figure out what kind of article you have.  Is it popular/scholarly/trade?  Is it a magazine, newspaper, journal, or web article?
  2. For library article databases and Google Scholar, use their Cite feature or eTurabian.   For other articles, you can type the citation into your bibliography/works cited list or use the Word Reference system to format notes and citation.  (Remember Word meaning for the terms citation  and notes differ from common usage.)
  3. When using the Word Reference system you must:
    1. Choose the right format (book, journal article, etc.)
    2. Fill in the correct boxes
      1. Have a lot of empty boxes and don’t have boxes for information you have?  You’ve probably chosen the wrong format.
    3. Check citations and notes for correctness.
  4. Use a guide like the OWL@Purdue or the APA or MLA nor Chicago/Turabian print manuals to make sure you’ve done everything correctly.

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Finding, citing & evaluating articles: evaluating


You evaluate articles the same way you do everything else:  you look at relevance, quality, currency, bias, etc.  In fact, articles are the easiest thing to evaluate, with one big IF.

The easy part is that most articles make it easy for you to find the information you need.  The IF  is:  IF you use the right kind of article.

What’s the right kind of article?  The right kind of article is one that gives you the information you need to do a proper evaluation.  Where do you find these articles?

  • library article databases
  • scholarly search engines (Google Scholar,Pubmed)
    • these search engines find sources other than journal articles.  You are responsible for knowing the difference.
    • Bing, Yahoo, regular Google, Duckduckgo, etc. are not scholarly search engines.
  • the general web – if you feel like wasting time.
    •  Yes, you will occasionally get lucky.
    • If you use really technical keywords and search Google, it assumes you think you’re using  Google Scholar and may pop some decent – good articles to the top.  If you click the links, you’ll go to Google Scholar, so you might as well start there.
  • Often, the easy way to develop a bibliography of good articles is to check a specialty encyclopedia (not World Book or the Encyclopedia Britannica) or a scholarly book on the subject.  Use the library catalog or Electronic Journals link on the library’s website to see if we own the sources you find in a specialty encyclopedia.
  • This is also one of the legitimate uses of Wikipedia.  One of the signs of a good Wikipedia article is that it has a good reference list and notes.  However, you must still look at the source and decide if it’s a.)  an article and b.) a good source.  So you might as well start with library article databases.

Finding your article in a good source is an easy way to get a good article.  However, no matter how good the source, you still need to evaluate the article.  You need to make sure that the article is relevant, that it fits your needs, and that the quality is good.  Most articles in library databases or Google Scholar are good, but bad ones creep in occasionally.

Relevancy – Yes, you can make almost any article seem relevant.  Having said that, this is not a game where you try to beat, pound, pry, stuff, strangle  and otherwise manipulate an article into relevancy.  The idea is to start at the right place and end up with a directly relevant, high quality article.  Doing so saves a lot of time in the long run.

Fits your needs – “Fits your needs” does not mean:  the first thing you find that’s more or less on topic.  “Fits your needs” means it fits what you need for the assignment you’re doing.   It means you use a scholarly journal article when asked for one instead of trying to sneak a Wikipedia article past your instructor.  It means following the assignment instructions.  It means   asking for help and clarification as needed.

Good quality –  Good quality means that when you go through the evaluation checklist, your article meets all or most of the criteria.

You use the same checklist for books, articles and web sources; however, you focus on slightly different things.  For example:  with books, you look at publisher; for articles you look at the magazine, newspaper, journal or web source.  For all sources, you look at the authors and their affiliation.  If there aren’t identifiable authors, this is usually a sign to stay away from the source.   (Exception:  some sources, especially government and organization documents – online or print – have corporate authors; that is, the organization acts as the author.  Also, some magazine and newspaper articles may not have authors listed.)

Peer review is critical when trying to determine if an article is scholarly.  Peer reviewed means that other experts have looked at an article and determined that it’s worthy of publication.  Library databases help with this by identifying articles as scholarlyacademic, peer reviewed, or refereed (= peer reviewed.)

CAUTION:  There are two important issues with article database identification of scholarly journals:

  1. There are some journals that instructors disagree about (scholarly vs trade vs popular)
    1. These are generally trade/scholarly  journals in areas like marketing, teaching, criminal justice, etc.
    2. The specific instructor you are doing the research for wins when  there is a question about the scholarly nature of an article or journal.
  2. All scholarly journals have non-scholarly articles in them.  These include:
    1. Letters
    2. Editorials & opinion pieces
    3. Book reviews

Remember to use commonsense!

Relevance – will it be useful?

  • Is the information directly related to your topic?
    • If you’re writing a paper on how ballerinas dance on their toes, a resource about ballroom dancing isn’t acceptable; an article on counting probably isn’t acceptable;  an article on ballerinas and foot injuries probably is related.
  • Is there enough information?
    • With rare exceptions, such as statistics and facts, you need an absolute minimum  of 2-3 paragraphs of information for a source to be useful.
  • Why do you think it will be useful?
    • How will you use the information?  As evidence to support your research question?  As an example?
  • Is it the right kind of information?
    • If you have to use scholarly sources, then magazines, newspapers and general websites won’t work.

Credibility – is the information accurate?

  • Have you found similar information somewhere else?  
    • If you’ve found similar information in a different scholarly source, it’s probably accurate.  EXCEPTION:  if you look at two older articles and a newer one that disagrees, you need to check another new article – it’s probable views have changed over time.
  • Does the author provide evidence and examples to support  his/her information
    • If an author says people prefer Coke to Pepsi, does s/he provide information from studies and research on the topic?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject? 
    • What is the source of his expertise – education?  experience?
    • Can you tell what else the author has published?  Is it scholarly?   Popular, but in a respected magazine such as Archaeology or  Scientific American?
  • Is there a way to contact the author?
    • Is there an email address?  An institutional affiliation (where they work)?
  • Are there references or a bibliography?
    • If you can use the sources and links to find other information, this is a good sign the information is accurate.
  • Is the information peer reviewed or edited?

    • Edited means at least one other person looked at the information and okayed it.  Peer review means 2-3 specialists in the field have okayed publication.  Editing is mostly found in popular sources.  Peer reviewed (or refereed) is found in scholarly sources.  Both indicate the source should be credible.
  • For websites:
    • Is the information easy to find?
      • Can you find the author, sponsoring group, date created, etc.?  The better organized the site, the more likely it is a good source.
    • Is it a .edu, .gov or .org website?
      • These sites tend to be more accurate (but not always – for example, students can often post information on .edu sites.)
    • Are there a lot of ads?  Is the site trying to sell something?
      • Some of these sites are good, but be sure to check for relevance, etc.

Currency – how new is it?

  • Do you need current information?
    • If you’re writing on the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage,  your sources need to be very current.  If you’re writing on the pyramids in Egypt, older material may be helpful, but the majority of your sources should be from the last 10-15 years.  They’re still discovering new things about the pyramids
  • Can you tell when the  information was created?
    • This can be hard on a website.  A website without a date is usually not a good source.

Objectivity – is there a bias?

  • Does the information clearly support only one side of an issue?
    • The Sierra Club website has a different view on logging than Pacific Lumber Company.
  • Is the author trying to persuade you to come over to his/her view?
    • A website claiming the Beatles are the best band ever is probably not a good source of information on bands in the Sixties.
  • Does the information try to show both sides?
    • These sources are often a better, but be careful.  The author is picking and choosing his/her information.
    • There can be bias even where the author is trying to be objective.

Most information is biased to some degree.  The trick is to be aware of the bias and work with it.

  • Use the Sierra Club and Pacific Lumber Company websites as examples of opposing viewpoints.
  • Use a website trying to persuade you to vote for a candidate as an example of campaign techniques in the U.S.



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