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Frequently Asked Questions: Finding Articles

Answers to common questions about the library and doing research.

What is an article database?

An article database is an online tool that allows you to search within a group of journals for articles on a particular topic. There are many different databases to choose from, and each individual database covers only a certain type and number of journals. For some subject areas, a print index in book form may be the better choice. If you are unsure where to begin, a reference librarian can always help you select an article database or print index for your topic.

Searching in databases may not always immediately yeild the full articles. It may result in a list of citations (see below), which include the information needed to locate the articles in print journals, magazines, and newspapers.

How do I find articles? How do I know which databases to use?

To find an article on a topic, you must first conduct a search in a database.

To select a begin at the UWM Libraries homepage:

  • Use Search@UW, a tool for searching most articles
  • Use Databases A-Z if you already know the name of a specific subject database
  • Browse Databases Subject if you need to find a database that covers the subject area related to your topic.

For help searching databases, see the Finding Articles tutorial.

Searching article databases will result in a list of citations, which provides the information needed to locate articles in print journals, magazines, and newspapers. In addition to citations and abstracts, some databases also provide full-text of articles, which you can view online, print, or e-mail. Some databases, such as Ethnic NewsWatch, GenderWatch, JSTOR, and Project Muse, have complete full-text for all articles. However, most databases have only partial full-text coverage, which means full-text is available for selected journals only. Still other databases provide only citations or citations with abstracts and no full-text coverage at all.

If an article is not available online, you must follow the  link to determine if the library owns the journal in which the article is published. See getting full text for more information.

How do I search for citations to a known item?

Citation databases (also called citation indexes) allow you to search forward in time from a known item to more recent publications which cite it. They are useful for determining the popularity and impact of specific works, and locating more recent publications on similar topics.

Records in Search@UW include this information, when available (of course, no citation index is perfect, since nothing contains a record of every publication in existence). Look for the link to see a list of known references.

Citation databases of scholarly publications also include Web of Science, Google Scholar, NASA's Astrophysics Data SystemCitations in Economics, and CiteSeer.

Many library databases include a cited reference search option; the library guide Research Databases for Cited Reference Searching lists more databases.