Tutorial: Finding Articles

A&I Indexes

A&I is short for "indexing and abstracting".  In this case, "indexing" and "abstracting" are verbs. These databases index articles (tell you where to find the articles) and abstract articles (provide descriptive information about the content of the articles).

A&I indexes are an excellent tool for finding articles in a variety of journals.  Some indexes even cover publication beyond journals, such as book chapters, theses, and conference proceedings.  While these materials might be more difficult to track down, they can be useful for advanced researchers.

Read through the tabs below to see how A&I indexes work.


Indexes are the tools used to find articles in periodical literature (journals, magazines, and newspapers). An index tells you which journals have published articles on your topic.

  • Indexes are publications we subscribe to (usually as databases), and they describe articles.
  • Think of them as an index to a set of journals.  You're asking, "Where are the articles on...?"
  • Choose an index that covers your topic, search it, and get a list of article citations that fit your search.


Databases A-Z lists all our indexes by title

  • Most indexes are in the form of databases, but they're a specific type of database. We have other types of databases that aren't indexes - those which provide videos, full text, or primary documents, for instance.
  • Find Databases A-Z at the top of any library webpage, or in the Omni top links, as "Database List".  Check it now, for a look at the variety of indexes available to you at Trent.
    • Click "Databases A-Z", then "Complete Database A-Z List".
    • Just look over the list right now.
  • Notice that you can limit the list of databases by subject or type.
  • Each entry on the list shows:
    • the title of the database, which is also the link to it,
    • icons to identify the type of database and availability,
    • a description of the database.

Screenshot of the Databases A-Z List:

screenshot of the top of the Databases A-Z list


Research Guides list indexes (and other databases) by subject.

  • On any Research Guide, click the tab for "Articles" to find the best indexes for finding articles in that subject area.
  • Find Research Guides at the top of any library webpage, or in the Omni top links.

You've seen that we subscribe to many indexes. How do you know where to start?

  • The most important thing to look for is subject coverage. Make sure the index you use has articles related to your topic.
  • For example, don't use the Philosopher's Index to find articles for your Geography paper.

How do you know the index for your subject? There are a few ways.

  • Use a Researcg Guide for a list of indexes useful to your subject area. This is usually the quickest method. (You can find a link to the research guides on any library webpage.)
  • Sometimes it's obvious which index you need: PsycINFO is good for Psychology; Historical Abstracts is for History. You can browse or search our complete Databases A-Z for a familiar title.
  • You can also ask for advice at the Library Service Desk, or your prof may suggest one.

Once you've found indexes related to your subject, you may also consider:

  • Depth of coverage.
    • Some indexes cover thousands of journals; others cover only a few dozen high quality journals.
    • Some cover more popular journals; some are more scholarly.
    • Some are considered essential to any research in their field and MUST be searched.
  • Ease of use.
    • Some indexes are more complicated than others.
    • Often, more complex search engines allow more precise searching and simple search engines provide general results.
    • If you're more familiar with one, you may want to start with it, but be sure it's still appropriate for your subject matter.


Useful Links

Shopping for Articles?

Compare finding articles to shopping in a mall.

  • You don't expect to find everything you need in a single store.
  • Some stores offer a wide variety of common items, while others specialize.
  • With experience, you learn which stores you like to shop in and which ones don't suit your needs.
  • You don't always need the same things, so choose a store based on what you need at that time.

When you come to the Library, you'll find various online indexes for locating articles.

  • It may take a while to learn which ones have what you need and which ones you like to use.
  • Your needs will also change as your courses/topics change.
  • It may take you a while to find the best index for your needs. Go into a few and check them out.

It's tempting to use Google for all your research. Why not? It's easy and it finds lots of STUFF.

Think of Google as an all-purpose store (keeping with the shopping mall analogy), like Walmart or Costco.

  • Sometimes it has just what you need with the least amount of fuss (and expense).
  • But it doesn't always have the variety or quality that you need.
  • Sometimes you need to go beyond Google, to a specialty store.

Omni is similar to Google Scholar, in that it searches multiple locations and brings you the results in one place. Omni is different in that:

  • It's searching only academic information available through university libraries. You can narrow it to the Trent Library, or expand it to other Ontario university libraries.
  • It provides options for filtering results based on type of material, etc. Narrow your results to peer-reviewed journals, or ebooks, for instance.
  • It provides detailed descriptions of each item, with the further ability to use them for further searching. You can click an author or a subject to perform a new search for related items.
  • It provides suggestions for related resources.

For more information about using Google to its best advantage, see our webpage on "Using Google, Google Scholar, and Other Internet Search Engines". It also shows you how to alter setting in Google Scholar that link you to full text through the library.

Once you have selected your index(es), use your keyword searching skills (from the Keyword Tutorial) to search for articles. This gets you citations, which lead you to the articles.

It's not always easy to identify which articles might be useful for your research. They're not precisely what you need every time.

  • Take time to read your results and select the articles you want to track down.
  • Look for hints (other terms) to alter your search and try it again.
  • Don't expect to find only perfect articles.  What you're writing about is probably more general than the topics of articles.
  • Be flexible; think about how you can apply articles you do find to your topic, instead of holding out for articles that cover your topic exactly.

See the next section to examine citations.


Useful Links