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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Searching for articles: Get going

What is an article?

An article (or paper) is a piece of text, usually published in a journal and often reporting on research into a single aspect of a problem. Many articles have a rather fixed structure, but each discipline has its own traditions.

Role in science

Authors use articles for:

  • quick sharing of new scientific insights
  • recording/claiming certain new insights for the outside world
  • making sure that their research literally does count: many researchers are judged by the number of articles and books they have published

and readers use them as:

  • a source of very detailed analyses and research findings without a too extensive context

All journals online? No...

Many, but not all journals are online. It differs according to discipline (almost all in natural and biomedical sciences as well as social sciences, but fewer in humanities) and according to language (most of those in English, but fewer of those in other languages). It does not pose a big problem because:

  • most search engines / databases index print as wel as online journals
  • the UBUlink UBUlink: from description to full text guides you the publicatios, regardless of whether they are in print or online

To find out if we have a print journal available search our catalogue by the name of the journal.

Which search engine or database for finding articles?

For finding journal articles there are many good search engine or bibliographical databases:

Articles published as book chapters

Articles published in books ('edited volumes', 'readers', 'anthologies') are quite difficult to find. Options:

  • Using Google Books you mostly search the full text of books and thus will discover titles of books with a certain chapters/article as well
  • The library catalogue searches tables of contents of many of the e-books available
  • In Worldcat you can filter your search results to show just articles and as a subset of that just the book chapters, but only a small amount of the books catalogued in Worldcat has been indexed at article/chapter level.
  • Scopus has started indexing English language scholarly books with separate records for each chapter; to find them select book chapter as document type. Some 400,000 book chapters have been included as of September 2014.

Article search tips

  • Use more than one search system. There is hardly a discipline in which only one search engine is enough to find articles.
  • Familiarise yourself with one or two article search engines, for instance by using these LibGuides.
  • When searching articles you could use specific (scholarly / professional) terms, usually in English. If you want to search using non-English terms, first find out whether there are articles in that particular language at all in the database or search engine you are using.
  • Google Scholar searches the full text of the articles. This may be an advantage, but there is a big chance you will get loads of hits. It is wise to use many and specific terms in Google Scholar.
  • Google Scholar sorts its results partly by the number of citations. New articles have not been cited many times yet, and so end up further down the results list. So set up a lower limit for publication years in the advanced search options.
  • Scopus sorts the results list by date. It may make sense to change that and and sort by relevance in Scopus
  • Follow links (if possible) by clicking on author, keyword, citations and references. That way you find related information.

see also the special LibGuides search strategy UBU LIbGuide search strategy (in Dutch) and generating search terms UBU LibGuide generating search terms .



The very first journal

Journal des Scavans

Contrary to popular belief the French Journal des Scavans was the very first scholarly journal, appearing january 1665, a mere two months before the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Comparing French and English versions of wikipedia articles on both journals shows that both are still claimed to be the oldest scholarly journal, with English sources doubting the pure scientific nature of the French journal.

The largest journal

PLoS One

Currently PLoS One publishes over 30,000 papers per annum, although there seems to be a downward trend over the last two years (2016: 30%)