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Research Toolkit: Find Articles - The Basics

Tools, techniques, and resources to help you find the information you need.

 Related guides: Find a Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Article


Once you are armed with a topic and a good collection of keywords, you are ready to begin your search. If you're in search of articles, there are a few options you have for finding them. Check them out below.

Now, let the searching begin!


Strategy 1: Find Articles with a Database


Watch - Finding Articles in Databases


When you are searching for articles on your topic, the first step you want to take is to choose the right database. A database is an organized, searchable collection of information such as books, articles, images, or videos. To find databases, start from the Bailey Library homepage at and click on the "databases" link.

If you scroll down the page you'll get a full view of the research support box. Here you'll find two different options for locating databases: Databases by Subject or Databases A-to-Z. The Databases by Subject link is usually the easiest place to begin. Clicking this link will lead you to a list of databases grouped according to the subject that they cover so you'll find everything from arts and Business all the way down to social sciences, so there are lots of different subject areas represented. If you are just getting started, the multi subject category is a great place to start. Multi-subject databases cover a wide variety of subjects.

Once you've chosen the database you want to use, click on its link to open it. For this demonstration I'll use Academic Search Complete. Keep in mind that a lot of the tips and tricks I'll be showing you here can be transferred from one database to another, so even if you choose to use another database, you can still use a lot of the same techniques. Let's say that my research topic is the impact of dog ownership on mental health and I need full-text articles that have been recently published. I'll begin by entering the keywords "dogs" and "mental health" into my search boxes and then click the Search button to get started. This brings me to a search results page where I can see at the top that I have just over a thousand results.

As I scan through my list of results I can see from the titles and also from the subject tags that a lot of my results are relevant to my topic, but I still want fewer, more specific results. So I'm going to use the "Limit To" section on the left side of the page to give the database more specific information about what I'm looking for. The first thing I'm going to do is put a check mark next to full text, which is going to update my search that only full articles are included. This has already brought the number of results down significantly from over a thousand to 664.

The next thing that I'm going to do is update my publication date range by changing the start date from 1975 to 2015 and then hitting the enter key. This is going to update my search so that only articles that have been published within the last five years are showing up in my list of results. If I want to refine or limit my results, from here I can do a few things: I could add more keywords to my search or try different combinations of keywords, or I can add more limiters to my search. You'll notice under the "Limit To" section that there are several other options for doing this such as scholarly and peer-reviewed. You can also limit by source type and if you scroll down further you have options for limiting by subject, language, and geography. So there are lots of options to play around with to find what you need.

You can click on the title of any result to view a summary or an abstract that tells you what the article is about. This is a technique you can use to determine whether or not an article is going to be useful to you before you read the entire thing. To access the full article you can click on one of the links located on the left side of the page. In this case we have a PDF full text link but sometimes you'll see an HTML full text link or a full text finder link. Any of these options will get you to the full article.

Once you have an article open, if you decide it's something that you want to use, there are several options that you have for printing, sharing, and citing the article. Most databases have a built-in tools menu that will help you do this. In this database you will find these tools listed on the right-hand side of the page in the form of icons. A few of the options you have are to print, you can also save to Google Drive, you can email the article to yourself or to a classmate, and, of course, one of the most exciting options is the option that you have for generating a citation for that article. This is simply done by clicking the Cite icon and then scrolling down to find the citation format you're using for your class. Both APA and MLA are included. Then it's just a matter of highlighting, right clicking, copying, and pasting that citation into whatever document you're using to write your paper. If you need help using databases or finding articles, don't be a stranger! Visit to connect with a librarian for help.


Practice - Interactive Tutorial

Practice your search skills with the interactive database searching tutorial.


Choose a Database

Articles live in databases and can be found by doing a search with keywords (more on that in a moment). You have two options for finding databases at WCC:

Pro Tip: Don't limit yourself to one database. Searching multiple databases will give you access to more articles.

Enter Your Keywords

Once you've opened the database you want to use, plug your keywords into the search box. If you have more than one set of keywords to search with, using advanced search is your best bet. Don't worry - this won't make it harder. It will give you more options to tell the database what you're looking for from the get-go. 


Keyword Search


Use Limiters

Limiters are available in almost every database and help you tell the database exactly what you're looking for. They may look a little different in each database, but they work the same way and are usually located along the side or the top of the results page. Certain limiters can also be found on the initial search page.

Here are a few commonly used limiters:

  • Full-text - tells the database you only want full articles, not summaries or abstracts.
  • Scholarly/Peer Reviewed - tells the database you only want scholarly or peer reviewed articles. 
  • Date - allows you to tell the database that you only want articles from a certain range of dates. This is helpful if you are looking for only the most recent articles.

Viewing, Printing and Emailing Articles

You can view an article by clicking on the title of the article from the results list. When a PDF of the article is available there is usually a link on the side of the page to open the full article. Once you are viewing the article you wil notice options for printing, emailing, and citation tools on the side of the page. Below are a couple examples of this:


Strategy 2: Find Articles Using Smart Search Primo


Smart Search Primo is Bailey Library's search engine that streamlines searching. You can use it to search for online articles, books, videos and documents all in one place.

Interested in using One Search? One Search is the default search mode on the Bailey Library homepage. It is found under the Search All tab.

Pro Tip: Because One Search pulls resources from many places, you'll end up with a lot of results when you search it. It's a powerful tool that takes a bit of practice, so it's helpful to try out different options to see what works best for your search.

Use Keywords

Type your keywords into the search box. Keep your search short and simple to start. You can always add more keywords and limiters later. You can also start out with advanced search, which gives you more options for customizing your search right away.


Library homepage with Primo Smart Search box

Review Your Search Results

The icons on the left will tell you what kind of document you are looking at. Look for clues like title and subjects to see if you are on the right track. You can also view summaries of articles by clicking on the title.


Peer Reviewed journals limiter

Refine Your Search

Refine your search by using limiters and by adding more keywords, if needed.

Here are a few commonly used limiters:

  • Full-text - tells the database you only want full articles, not summaries or abstracts.
  • Scholarly/Peer Reviewed - tells the database you only want scholarly or peer reviewed articles. 
  • Date - allows you to tell the database that you only want articles from a certain range of dates. This is helpful if you are looking for only the most recent articles.


Strategy 3: Find Articles Using Google Scholar


How do I access Bailey Library's licensed copies of articles that I find via Google Scholar?

Before you search Google Scholar, you must select preferences in the settings menu. Once you set and save your preferences, you will be able to link to library resources retrieved with a Google Scholar search.

1. Click Settings on the Google Scholar page.

2. Click Library links

4. Type "Washtenaw Community College" into the search box and click the search icon.

5. Check all of the Washtenaw Community College boxes. Then click Save.

6. Now you're ready to search. In the search results look for the Washtenaw Community College full-text link. (Note: Sometimes the link is labeled with the database name and not the library name - as long as a link appears on the right side of the page, you should have full-text access).

7. If you are trying to access library articles off-campus you will have to provide your NetID.

Making Google Scholar Work for You

1. Why does the "Washtenaw Community College " link appear next to some items and not others? 
Google Scholar displays this link after comparing the citation to our list of electronic subscriptions. Keep in mind that Google Scholar does not know when we have the print version, nor can it match an incomplete citation. So if the item is not available for free via the web, be sure to search our Online Catalog or Smart Search Primo to see if Bailey Library owns that title.

2. Is everything in Google Scholar free?
No. Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for access. However, Bailey Library subscribes to a lot of the same or similar resources that can be accessed from our Online Catalog or databases.

4. How comprehensive is Google Scholar?
Google Scholar searches open access materials as well as items from many publishers, including some of the resources to which Bailey Library subscribes. However, Google Scholar only searches a fraction of the published scholarly literature. Use library resources like the Online Catalog, Smart Search Primo, and specific databases to search for a higher volume of full-text information.

5. How do I search by author, or limit to certain publications or dates in Google Scholar?
Use Advanced Scholar Search (click the down arrow in the search box) which allows for author, publication and date range searching.