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Searching for journal articles

Quicker, smarter, more effective searching.

Selecting where to search

You can change your search results dramatically depending on where you search.

The perils of public search engines

Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo are excellent for searching for public material online.
However, their results have three main drawbacks to you as a student and professional:

  1. A lot of the material you find is general information aimed at the general public, without the detail that you need as a specialist and professional.
  2. A lot of useful academic and professional material is behind publisher paywalls, where generic search engines can't get to it.
  3. University and institutional libraries select these sources and pay publishers so you get access to this material.
  4. Anyone can put material online, and it is not always possible to pick the quality of information just by the website name and appearance.

For easy but very broad multi-disciplinary searches, you can use general sources such Library QuickSearch and Google Scholar.

They are easy to search, but may produce many documents that are only slightly relevant to your topic.

Note: While Google Scholar is very similar to Google when searching, it is very different in the content that it searches.

A better place to search

For more specific searches that produce smaller numbers of more relevant results, there are specialist search engines that only cover material in your discipline area.

Libraries refer to these as bibliographic databases or just (Library) databases.

Academic libraries pay for full-text access to material found in these databases.

See the video below for a great explanation of why you should use a Library database for finding material.


Click the Transcript button to see the transcript of the video above

Hello, I'm Bud, and I'm going to show you why you need library databases for research.

By now almost everyone is familiar with searching the web.
But have you ever stopped to think of what you're searching?

Google, Bing, and Yahoo only give you free access to what companies and people have made available to the public.
This is great if you're shopping or browsing movie trailers, but is limited when you need to find information for research.

Unfortunately, unlimited access to reliable information is restricted because many publishers want to be paid.
They won't give free access to their copyrighted content.

On the web, anyone can create a website on any subject whether they are an authority or not - no one is policing the web.
This makes it hard to find credible information, which is important when you're doing research.

Also, search engines can give you millions of results for each search and only give you a few options to narrow it down.
So it's hard to scan the results and find the exact information you're looking for.

Now, let me tell you about databases.

Databases allow you to find information not freely available on the web.
They search thousands of articles and books.
You can also find images, charts, and primary sources.

Some cover a range of topics.
Others are more focused on specific subjects such as literature, education, or controversial issues.
You'll want to choose a database based on your research topic.

The articles in databases are from popular magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and encyclopaedias.
You'll also find scholarly and peer-reviewed articles. They've been chosen because they are written by credible authors such as journalists, researchers, and experts in their fields.

Just like when you search the web, you'll still get lots of results.
However, databases give you more control over your results with powerful search tools.
Some will suggest additional keywords to use to narrow down your topic.
You can further refine your results by limiting to a date range, publication type, and full text.

Once you find a worthwhile article, a formatted citation is often available to copy and paste into your paper.

Library databases are filled with credible content and give you powerful search tools to find relevant results.
When you search a database instead of the web, you will spend less time searching and find better information to support your research.

In the next few sections I'll show you some simple search techniques that work with all Library databases to get great results.

Try it yourself

Type in: iPads education into the QuickSearch or Google Scholar boxes below.

Google Scholar


Library QuickSearch - items on the shelves or in the Library's electronic collections and subscriptions

Now try it in ERIC, a specialist education database - type in: iPads education

Look carefully at the difference in the number of results, and look at the journal names in which the articles were found.

Note how there are a smaller number of more specific results in ERIC, and the source journals are more relevant to the academic discipline.

Database search
Search ERIC

So which databases should I use?

Where to start?

The Library has hundreds of specialist search databases. How do you know which ones to use?

Like RMIT in the video above, Federation University Library provides Subject Guides that provide selected lists of useful databases for your discipline.

To get to these guides, go to the Library home page, click on the Subject Guides tab, and go to the A-Z list to get to the complete list of subject guides.

Within each subject guide, a short list of the most relevant databases for your subject is shown prominently. A longer list, which might be useful for more specific or more multidisciplinary topics, is linked below.

screenshot from subject guide landing page, indicating key databases and link to other useful databases


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