Tutorial: Finding Articles

About Journals

To find articles you really need to understand the journals they're published in.  Let's start with a little vocabulary to clarify the different terms you'll hear:

A Journal / Magazine / Newspaper is a Serial / Periodical
These are ongoing subscriptions.
"Serial" and "Periodical" are broader, generic terms.  Journals, magazines and newspapers are types of serials/periodicals.

A Monograph is a  Book
A one-time purchase. A single item.
A "novel" is a type of book (fiction), not another term for a book.  You only use novels in literature courses.


Books provide more general, established information.  Sometimes a book can be a collection of essays or articles, in which case it's an edited book; the articles have different authors which the editor gathered together.

To find a book, you search the Library catalogue.  You can also check the catalogues of other libraries, as outlined in the Library Catalogue tutorial. Finding books is relatively easy.


Articles are constantly published in journals. They're shorter than books, more specific in their subject matter, and represent the latest information (new knowledge) when they're published. Journals are the academic version of magazines. 

Your research assignments often require you to find articles published in scholarly journals. This is because subject experts need to know how to locate the latest information on their topic, and that is commonly communicated through scholarly journals.  You are becoming a subject expert.

  • How do you know you're looking at a journal article, as opposed to a book chapter, blog, or website?  It will have:
    • a VOLUME number, and
    • page numbers.

Searching for journal articles takes time, effort, and creativity because of the quantity and variety of journals available.  You can't just search one place to find articles. 

If you understand how journal literature is organized, you will be more comfortable with finding and using it. This tutorial explains the process.

Use the tabs at the top of this box to navigate through the tutorial.

Scholarly publishing in journals usually follows these steps:

1. Original research is completed and written up in an article.

  • A subject expert (your professor, for instance) completes a research project to discover new information, and then writes an article about it. The article follows an accepted format.
  • This step can take years or months, depending on the type and depth of research.
  • The article is submitted to a scholarly journal for publication.

2. A peer-review process takes place.

  • Other subject experts review the article to ensure that the research process is sound and the article is reasonable and valuable - that it's worthy of publication.
  • The reviewers often require edits and modifications that improve the quality of the paper in order to publish it. It may need to be re-submitted for further review, or it could be rejected.
  • This peer-review process is what we depend upon to ensure that we're reading reliable, scholarly work.
  • Not all journals have this process, but scholarly publications generally require it.

3. The article is accepted and published in an issue of a journal.

  • Once it has cleared the review and is accepted by the journal, the article is published in an issue of the journal.
  • Libraries that subscribe to the journal receive the issue, in print or (more likely) online.
  • The release times of different formats vary; often the online articles (pre-prints) are released before the hard copy (print). Microform might be much later.  (Microform is a rather old technology now, rarely used.)

4. The journal issue is indexed by various indexing companies.

  • Descriptions of the articles within the issue are added to databases that provide indexing (descriptions and discoverability) for that particular journal.
  • This is when most of the world finds out about the article.
  • Unless you read every issue of every journal, how would you know what's been published? Indexes are how we know what's been published in which journals.

Millions of articles are published every year, in thousands of scholarly journals. The articles explore the latest in research and information.

There is actually NO:

  • single place to look to find all journal articles,
  • list of every article available in a specific library, or
  • database of every article published on a topic.

That's why searching takes time, effort, and creativity.

The Trent University Library maintains over 30,000 current journal subscriptions, most of which are accessible only online.  They're owned and hosted by various publishers, who sell us access.  While the Library organizes this material so you can find it, there are multiple routes you can take to get to the same information. 

What matters most is WHAT you find, rather than HOW you find it.


Omni (the library search tool) is a good place to start your search. You can enter simple search terms to search the majority of Trent's collection, including journal articles.  From your results page, use the filters to limit the results to "Articles". You can also select "Peer-Reviewed Journals" to ensure they're scholarly.

Indexes (Databases)

The next section of the tutorial covers indexes.