Skip to Main Content

How to Find Journal Articles

Searching Basics

While each journal database has its own unique searching capabilities, there are certain searching features that are common to all of them. These features are outlined below.

For additional guidance on how to search a specific database, you can consult that database's "Help" or "Tips" page(s).

Basic vs. Advanced Searching

In all of the databases discussed in this guide, you can either run a basic search or an advanced search. The default search option is typically the basic or quick search where you are given one box to enter all of your terms. The advanced search option enables you to break up your search into different components, thereby giving you greater flexibility in searching and allowing for more precise results.

One search option that is typically more likely to be available in the advanced searching mode is the option of limiting your search (or components of your search) to particular sections or fields of the documents. For example, if you are looking for a specific article and know the title, you can limit your search to the words in each document title as opposed to searching the entire text of each document. If you are searching by topic, it is often useful to search by keyword and to search only the major fields of each document, including the article citation, subject headings, and possibly, the abstract.

Using Search Connectors and Operators

You can use quotation marks around words that you want to search as an exact phrase (e.g., "public schools"). You can also use connectors to link your terms in a logical way:

  • The AND connector between terms or phrases indicates that all of them must be included in the document or field being searched (e.g., desegregation AND "public schools").
  • The OR connector indicates that at least one of the terms or phrases must be in the document or field. This connector is most useful to link synonymous or related terms (e.g., desegregation OR integration).
  • You can use both the AND and OR connector in the same search. Use parentheses around sets of terms to establish the relationships between the terms in your search. For example, the search:

    "public schools" AND (desegregation OR integration)

    requires in each document the phrase "public schools" as well as at least one of the two terms within the parentheses. In other words, the AND connector operates on the parenthetical expression as one required component of the search and the phrase "public schools" as the other required component.
  • Many databases have additional operators that allow you to establish proximity relationships between terms (i.e., how close terms must be to each other in each document). The proximity operators used for the databases discussed in this guide are indicated in the respective sections of this guide.

To allow for different versions of a particular word, you can truncate the word with a special symbol. In all of the databases discussed in this guide, the main truncation symbol is the asterisk (*). For example, the search integrat* will pull up documents containing either integrate, integration, or integrating.

USC Digital Accessibility