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Doing Research: Articles

Choosing Databases

The library has lots of databases that can help you find articles for almost any topic. Some databases offer full text of articles, others only the citation, and some will have both. Some are interdisciplinary and cover a great many subjects and kinds of publications. Others specialize in newspapers. Some contain older materials.

Be search you are paying attention to what type of content the database you're using contains. You can read more about individual databases.

For each major, there are discipline-specific specialized databases, that focus more narrowly on a subject area, but in far more depth than any other database.  It is important to search the right database for your topic. Use the research guides to identify the right databases for your area of study. You can also start with some of the multi-purpose databases below. 

Historical Magazines

We have many 19th and 20th century magazines in print on the lower level of the library. They are shelved alphabetically by title. If you want to search by subject, ask a reference librarian to point you toward The Reader's Guide to Periodicals, which indexes magazines by topic. Also consult our guide to Historical Magazines by Decade.

Finding the Actual Articles

Once you've identified an interesting article, look to see if the full text is there. If not, follow these steps:

  • Click the yellow "find it!" button, which will search to see if it is full text in another database. It will also check to see if we have it full text in print.
  • If it is full text in another database, click the links to get to the article itself. Note: the systems don't always talk to each other perfectly. Sometimes the links go to the wrong places. If this is the case, contact a librarian. We can easily help you track it down.
  • If the article is full text in print, take a field trip to the bottom floor of the library. Print journals are shelved alphabetically by title of the journal. Find the section containing your journal and then track down the article using the date or volume information. With the exception of the most recent issue of some popular magazines (shelved near the Browsing Collection near the front entrance on the main floor), you may check magazines and journals out for a week.

If an article is not available in full text or in print, request it through interlibrary loan, using your Gustavus account login to identify yourself. This generally means it will be scanned in for you at another library. An e-mail message will be sent to you with a URL and pin number to retrieve it. Though these scanned articles are sometimes are available within 24 hours, they can take longer. Plan ahead.

Sometimes you come across a footnote with an article that looks interesting. You don't need to turn to a database to find it. Check the title of the magazine or journal (not the article title) from the journal locator. If it is not available to us at Gustavus, log in to your library account and fill out an interlibrary loan request.

As you can see, tracking down the hard copies of materials can be tricky! Use the Tracking Down Materials tab for more information. Or contact a librarian directly.

Hint: Finding Open Access Articles

Increasingly, scholars are frustrated that their research is available only to people who have access to big libraries, so they either publish their research in journals that are free to anyone to read or they reserve the right to put copies of their research online. Try Googling the author and title of an article you need and add filetype:pdf - you might get lucky and find a free copy online.

For research in biology and biomedical sciences, the National Institutes of Health provides two options. PubMed is a huge database of medical research articles. After you do a search, you can choose to limit your results to free full text articles. Or you can go to PubMed Central, an archive of over 1,000 life science journals and articles based on research funded by the NIH to find lots of articles in biology and medicine.

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