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Databases: Finding Journal Articles: Tips & Tricks

This guide will help you search databases and journals to find relevant articles in any field.

Your Search: Finding RELEVANT Articles

First, organize your research topic into concepts. Concepts are typically nouns or noun phrases.

  • For example, if you are researching behavioral therapy methods used with teenagers with ADHD, your concepts would be
    • behavior therapy
    • teenagers
    • ADHD

Using a databases' Advanced Search, enter each concept and its synonyms into a separate search line.

  • "behavior therapy"
  • teen* OR adolescent*
  • ADHD OR "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder"

Use quotation marks around phrases, these are typically noun phrases that you would find a definition of in a dictionary.

  • "clinical psychologists"
  • "extracurricular activities"

Use * for truncation.

  • teen* will find teen, teens, teenager, teenagers, teenaged

Limit to peer-reviewed articles if necessary.

Limit by date if necessary.

Too many or too few results?

  • Use the thesaurus or Subject Index to find related, broader, narrower, and similar terms OR specific terms that the databases uses to describe a topic.
    • Too many results? Use a narrower term.
    • Too few results? Use a broader term.

Find an article that looks interesting?

  • Click on the article's title.
  • Look at the subjects given to an article to find related terms and run additional searches using these terms.
  • Click on the references, cited by, or see similar documents links to find related articles.

Boolean Logic

Use Boolean logic to add multiple synonyms or related terms. Boolean logic includes AND, OR, and NOT. This is easiest to do on the Advanced Search page when each keyword from your research statement has its own search box.

Example Search

  • Search Box 1: teens OR teenagers OR adolescents
  • Search Box 2: PTSD OR "posttraumatic stress disorder"
  • Search Box 3: NOT military OR army OR navy OR veterans


AND - Narrows a search

  • Example: teenagers AND PTSD
    • Retrieves articles with both teenagers and PTSD.

OR - Expands a search

  • Example: teenagers OR adolescents
    • Retrieves articles with just teenagers, just adolescents, and articles with both teenagers and adolescents.

NOT - Removes a term from a search

  • Example: teenagers NOT military: Retrieves articles with teenagers, but removes all articles with any mention of the military.
  • Use NOT sparingly because you often lose many useful articles.

Additional Tips

Spelling: Spelling counts. If you spell a word incorrectly, you will only bring up other incorrectly spelled words. If there are multiple spellings of a term, use all of them.

  • Example: Qadhafi OR Gadhafi OR Qaddafi

Help Screens and Tutorials: Learn to read and use help screens - they are the keys to being able to search effectively.

Capitalization: Use lowercase to match words in either upper or lowercase. For exact matches (usually in the case of proper names, like New York), use uppercase.

Evaluate: Know your sources for information. Who is the author or the organization represented? Be critical and double check information. 

Journals Covering 75+ Years

You may be asked to explore a journal that has been published for 75 years or more. Here's how.

  1. Use the database, JSTOR, linked below.
  2. Scroll down to the area labeled "Narrow by discipline/publication title."
  3. Click on a discipline.
  4. You will get a list of publications in that subject area. Each is marked with dates of publication. Choose one that goes back at least 75 years.
  5. Copy the name of that journal.
  6. Go to Auraria Library's Journal List page. Enter the journal's title in the search box. 
  7. The results show a list of Auraria Library's subscriptions to that journal. Each source indicates the dates the journal is covered.
  8. Click on a source that goes back far enough. You may need to work with several of the sources to cover all the dates needed.
  9. The source will list all of the issues that are included in that specific source. Click on individual issues to see the articles.