Journal Databases

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A journal database enables you to search for the "periodical literature" on a topic. Journals, magazines and newspapers are examples of periodicals. They are published periodically at regular, stated intervals (e.g. daily, monthly, etc.). Remember that a library catalogue will only let you look up the title of a journal. A journal database allows you to search the contents of a journal and will sometimes even make the full article available to you on your computer screen.

Most journal databases provide access to literature from the 1980s and up; for some topics you may need to use a print-based tool called a periodical index to look up older literature on the topic.

Research tip: Books are useful for a general overview of a topic, but are usually not as up-to-date as recently published journal articles, because of the time it takes between the author's writing of the book and publication. Periodical articles tend to deal with more specific topics than books and take less time to get published so they are an excellent source of current information on a topic.

Accessing AU Library's journal databases:

AU students, faculty and staff have remote access to AU Library's suite of journal databases via the Internet. If you have difficulty getting into the databases you may need to make a few small changes to your browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape) settings. If you have access problems consult FAQ's Regarding Remote Access to Journal Databases or contact AU Library.

Selecting appropriate databases:

AU Library subscribes to over 60 online journal databases. You will need to identify which databases are likely to contain articles relevant to researching your topic in Women's Studies. It might help to consult a list of Recommended Databases for Women's Studies. You can also consult the full alphabetical listing of journal databases by title or the listing of journal databases by subject.

Some databases include more specialized scholarly content than others:

  • Are you looking for journal articles that are written by specialists in the field and are peer-reviewed (e.g. Feminist Media Studies)?
  • Do you need magazine articles or news stories that present the popular view of a topic (e.g. Chatelaine)?
  • Some databases contain both types of sources.

Databases differ in the amount of content they provide:

  • Citation: provides information you will need to locate a particular journal article. Typically consists of author(s), date, article title, journal title, volume, issue and page numbers.
  • Abstract: a short description of the content of an article.
  • Full text: the complete text of the article is available to you immediately on your computer screen. It can usually be printed, e-mailed or saved to a file.

What if only the citation is provided?

Research tip: In addition to having remote access to AU Library's databases, you may find that you have access to local libraries that will allow you to use their databases as well as their print-based periodical collections on site.
Let's try searching for journal articles on our sample research topic
How can a healthy body image be promoted to adolescent girls? using Academic Search Premier, a multidisciplinary database that covers a variety of topics and includes many journals that are important for Women's Studies research.

Keyword searching:

Keyword searching allows you to search for terms as they occur anywhere in the record for the journal article: title, subject, full text, etc.

View a keyword search for (body image or eating disorders) and (promotion or education) and (adolescen* or teen*)

As you run your searches in the online databases you may wish to add or drop search terms or even concepts. Effective online searching is the art of adjusting your search strategy to fit the research topic and the particular database being searched. View tips on ways to broaden or narrow a search.

Subject searching:

Contents (articles/abstracts/citations) of databases are indexed and assigned subject headings by specialists. The headings are not necessarily Library of Congress Subject Headings, but they are often similar. Most databases provide a way to search the subject field and some allow you to browse their subject index or thesaurus.

This approach is comparable to searching by subject in a library catalogue. A useful strategy is to locate a relevant article using keywords, examine the subject headings assigned to it and then try searching by subject. The advantage in searching by subject is that all articles on the topic are found together under the one heading. This can help increase the relevancy of your search results.

View a subject search for body image.

Research tip: Databases vary in what indexed fields (e.g. title/keyword/author/subject) they allow you to search. They also vary in their limit functions. Most allow you to limit by publication date. Some allow you to limit by type of publication, by language, etc. Be sure to check database help files before you start searching!

Try searching Academic Search Premier for journal articles about your research topic.

Searching for Journal Titles:

In addition to searching journal databases by keyword and by subject for journal articles on your research topic, you may also want to target specific journals. Keep in mind that although a bit of browsing can be useful, for the most part you will need to use journal databases to see if a journal has a relevant article on your topic. Journal databases are the key to the contents of journals. Most journal databases provide a means to search by publication (e.g. journal name). Check database help files for more information.

To determine what journals AU subscribes to either in print or electronically you can use Search for a Journal Title. If you are not finding what you need contact AU Library.

To determine what journals are relevant to Women's Studies research you can identify and locate journal titles in library catalogues by searching under subject with the subdivision "periodicals". For example use feminism -- periodicals or women's studies -- periodicals.

View a list of selected periodicals for Women's Studies.

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