Finding articles in periodicals

Image of speaker to indicate sound file  To listen to this podcast episode, part 1,
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If you have already done some background reading and/or used catalogs to find books with BASIC or HISTORICAL information about your topic; but you would like to find additional information that is perhaps more CURRENT or more FOCUSED, you are probably ready to learn how to discover which magazines, journals or newspapers contain articles of interest to you.  This is a good point to ask for HELP from a librarian if you're not familiar with how to find them. 

Librarians will suggest that you use indexes or databases that are created by people who are paid to read periodicals. These indexers/abstractors keep very careful track of exactly which issue of which source carried an article, who wrote it, and how many pages it filled.  These details are often called "citations" and are necessary for you to locate the article in the periodicals that Grossmont has--either physically OR electronically. When we don't actually own a periodical, we often have access to it through a subscription database. You will need many of the details from a citation if you request our Interlibrary Loan staff to get a photocopy of that article for you from another library (at a cost--to you--of at least 15 cents per page).

The Grossmont Library subscribes to several expensive electronic databases.  Two of the major ones are "Academic Search Premier" from EBSCOhost and "AcademicOneFile" from a company named Gale.  These  can be accessed by clicking on the "Databases" link in the menu along the left-hand edge of the Library Home Page.  Explore the other options from EBSCO, Gale, and other "aggregators" sometime when you're feeling curious.

When you use these databases from the Library (or, actually from any computer on campus), the vendors recognize (by checking the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer you are using) that an official subscriber is asking to open a channel of communication.  When we paid these companies for the privilege of  connecting to their products, we also sent them a list of all the IP addresses of the computers on the Grossmont campus.  The "electronic handshake" out in cyberspace will confirm that it is OK for the vendor to open its search software for that user.

However, when you want to use these powerful tools to do research from somewhere that is OFF CAMPUS, you must convince the companies that you are currently registered as a student at Grossmont so that they will let you use their products from wherever you are--maybe your uncle's den, a friend's garage, or a public library with computers connected to the Internet.

You will need to know your user name and password to access our subscription databases from OFF CAMPUS.  Fortunately, they are the SAME user name and password used for Campus Email.  You can stop by the Reference Desk when you're in the Library to pick up a bookmark with further explanations.

Image of speaker to indicate sound file  To listen to this podcast episode, part 2,
the speaker icon.

Each of the database companies puts a lot of good information into their HELP (or "Search Tips")  screens.  If you want to become an efficient searcher, exploring each product's HELP options will be a good use of your time.  The electronic HELP screens will indicate such things as what "truncation characters" will help you find several forms of a word, whether placing a phrase inside "double quotes" will help retrieve articles where those words appear together, and how the Boolean logic operators are best expressed for their system (AND, OR, NOT, or perhaps + and - signs).

It's also good to be very observant about what options are offered each time you open a new page.  Use the RAT'S rule:  Read All The Screens!

A note about "Database Search" (one of the sub-menu options from "Databases" in the library web page's left-edge menu):  This product is a "federated" search engine since it tries to search for the terms entered into its text-entry box in several different vendors' databases simultaneously.  The Basic Search only retrieves results in which the search terms appear in the Title field of an item, but the Advanced Search will allow the searcher to specify other fields such as Author, Keyword, and Subject.  This "Database Search" can be useful as a way of finding out which of our many databases contain your search terms. Check in the "scorecard" feature that fills in along the left-edge margin of your screen. Then, you can go directly to those identified databases individually--so that you can use the software specifically designed for use in THAT product.  You may need to Ask a Librarian for help with this concept.

Many databases will let you specifically select the more scholarly journals (which may impress some instructors).  Editors of scholarly journals will often have the manuscript from a potential author distributed among other people in the same (or related) field of study.  These "peers" often make suggestions about how to improve the article so the author can incorporate some of this "constructive criticism" into a revised draft which is submitted to the editor again.  Articles going through this extra screening procedure are often called "refereed" or "peer-reviewed."

Databases may also let you indicate that you would prefer to only be shown the articles on your topic that are available "Full-Text."  The publishers of journals will sometimes give permission to the database companies to make their articles available on the Internet.  This may be done in an HTML format which flows onto your monitor like a document, or there may be an actual "page image" captured in a PDF file.  For this, your computer will need the free download of the "Acrobat" reader (translation tool) available from the website in order to open and display the pages on your monitor.  Another possible option is for the database to provide a "link" to the article at the publisher's site.  Regardless of HOW the databases manage to connect you to the information you need, being able to see (on your own screen) the articles needed for your research is a true miracle of modern technology.

Go back to Help with Research

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