Finding Articles

Periodicals Defined
Finding Specific Articles
Searching Electronic Index Databases
Obtaining Journal Articles

What are periodicals?

Periodicals (magazines, journals and newspapers) are so named because they're “periodically” published at regular intervals, whether daily, weekly, or monthly. Each publication of a periodical is called an issue, and issues generally make up a volume.

  • Magazines usually include articles on current or popular topics written for general audiences (such as Newsweek, Ebony, The Advocate, Sports Illustrated).
  • Journals contain research-oriented articles written by experts for a scholarly or professional audience (for example, American Historical Review, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Comparative Literature Studies).
  • Newspapers, such as The New York Times and The News and Observer, provide very current information on a variety of topics.

Periodicals can be important sources for research papers because the information found in them will often be more up-to-date than that found in books, which take much longer to publish. This may be especially true for current events, elections, sporting events, research in progress, or the latest developments in the sciences, social sciences or technology.

What’s so special about newspapers?

For the most recent information about events in our world, newspapers chronicle day to day occurrences, and are excellent historical sources that provide snapshot- in- time "contemporary" accounts of past events. Information from newspapers is generally considered to be primary source material.

  • The New York Times deserves special mention, and is often described as our "national newspaper." Covering every area of human activity -- political, social, artistic, scientific, athletic, educational, etc. -- on both the national and international level, NYT can be an important source for almost any topic. Published continuously since 1851, it’s a tremendous source of historical material.
  • New York Times Historical Newspaper Collection (1851-2003) is now available!  You can access full-image articles from the last 150 years, digital reproductions of every page from every issue, cover to cover.

How do I find articles on a specific subject?

Just as a book contains an index to point you to pages where specific information can be found, a periodical index database points you to where specific articles can be found within journals, magazines and newspapers. Some periodical index databases also include abstracts, or short summaries of an article’s contents. 

Periodical Index types:

  • General Indexes such as InfoTrac Expanded Academic ASAP and EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier, are good for finding magazine and journal articles on a wide variety of current general interest and scholarly topics.
  • Subject Indexes focus on specific subjects or disciplines, and list more scholarly journals than do general indexes. Some examples of subject indexes include Humanities Full-Text and EconLit.

Full-text articles available online

Some electronic periodical index databases such as InfoTrac, EBSCOhost and Lexis-Nexis provide the full-text of selected articles.

  • Beware: Full-text access doesn’t always mean that you get the entire article as it originally appeared in print. Illustrations including photographs, charts and graphs may be reformatted or left out.

Searching electronic index databases

From the Ramsey Library home page, select Research Databases

  • Browse electronic indexes By Subject to see a list of available categories, or alphabetically By Title if you already know which database you wish to use. Simply click on the title link in order to be connected to the resource you want to search.

Electronic periodical indexes enable you to access periodical articles by entering search terms, words or phrases that describe your topic.

Most electronic periodical index databases allow you to perform searches that:

  • Combine concepts or keywords using Boolean operators (AND, OR)
  • Limit your search to a specific periodical title
  • Limit your search by a specific range of years
  • Sort, select and mark relevant records
  • Print, email or save (download) the information you retrieve

For further information, see our Ramsey Library Research Guides to
Constructing a Search Statement
, and to Boolean Searching.

Keep in mind that some indexes may offer features that others don't, while some may require the use of very specific search methods. It's a good idea to read instructions on the search and help screens when using an electronic index, especially if you're using it for the first time.

Tips for using index databases:

  • Think critically when deciding what database to use. The number of electronic indexes available can be overwhelming.
  • Always ask yourself what discipline or subject area your topic falls under.
    • For example, if your topic is related to econometrics, use EconLit.
  • Electronic periodical indexes are produced by different companies and vendors, just like books and other library resources. Each is designed somewhat differently with its own search methods and unique commands.
  • Many subject areas and disciplines use a highly specialized vocabulary, which becomes a consideration when using subject specific indexes. For example, the subject index PsycINFO for psychology uses official terms assigned by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Make the most of your time in the library! If you're undecided please ask a research librarian to suggest an appropriate index for your subject. 

How do I find out what journals are available through Ramsey Library?

Perform a Journal title search in the Library Catalog:

Select Journal from the search menu, and type the journal, magazine or newspaper title in the search box.

  • If UNCA, ASU or WCU has the periodical, it will be listed in the library catalog. Examine the holdings information to see what date ranges are held at one or more libraries, and in what format it's available: whether it's current, bound, microform (microfilm or microfiche), or through a link which provides electronic full-text access.

Or select E-Journals A-to-Z from the library homepage to browse our electronic journal subscriptions.  You can search for specific titles or browse by subject.

What if an article is in a journal that Ramsey Library doesn't access?

Use ABC Express:

  • If WCU or ASU has the journal, request it online via the ABC Express feature button. There's no cost, and you should have it in only a few days.
    • The ABC Express delivery schedule is available online, as well as at the Circulation or Research Support Desk (251-6111).

Use Interlibrary Loan:

If a journal is not at UNCA, WCU or ASU, it may be possible to get a copy of the article you need through Interlibrary Loan. This process could take up to two weeks or more, and there may be a small fee involved.

  • Submit an interlibrary loan request form online, or fill out a print form available at the Research Support Desk.

Electronic full-text access to the most recent and older magazine, newspaper and journal issues may be available through online subscriptions

  • Perform a Journal search in the Library Catalog to locate holdings information.
  • Or select E-Journals A-to-Z from the library homepage to browse our electronic journal subscriptions.  You can search for specific titles or browse by subject.


Page updated 8/13/2013. 
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