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Finding Journal Articles

Where to start

When you have your assignment topic you can start planning your search.

Your search results are tied to the keywords that you use, so it's very important that you use the right words to find the right information. Start by looking for the main ideas or concepts in your assignment topic. 

Let's look at a sample assignment topic:

"Analyse the effect media has on body image in teenagers. Provide examples of at least two types of media to support your discussion."

From the topic above there are three main concepts:

  • Media
  • Body image
  • Teenagers

The main concepts become the foundation of your keyword search and are an excellent starting point for your research. Try a quick search in the library catalogue or one of the databases and see if the results are relevant. Sometimes, you'll find exactly what you need! If not, use the search tips below to identify alternative search terms.

Find alternative terms

Authors may use different keywords to describe the same concept. The keywords identified from the assignment question won't always be the most appropriate terms to use for searching. You may find that:

  1. You're not finding relevant journal articles OR
  2. You're not finding as much information as you would like.

When this happens, it's a good idea to identify alternative keywords (also known as synonyms or similar terms). This will broaden your search. 

For our sample assignment topic some alternative terms for each main concept could be:

  • Media - Multimedia, Advertising, Internet
  • Body image - Self image, Body consciousness
  • Teenagers - Adolescents, Youth, Young people

Combine your search terms using AND and OR

When searching in the catalogue and databases, you can join your keywords using AND and OR. 

  • AND narrows your search, instructing the catalogue or database that you're only interested in articles that contain both of your terms. For example, a search for teenagers AND body image will only return records containing both the terms teenagers and body image.
  • OR broadens your search, instructing the catalogue or database that you're interested in articles that contain either of your terms. For example, a search for teenagers OR adolescents will locate all records containing either the terms teenagers or adolescents.

It is helpful to show this diagrammatically:

      

 

Search tips

You can use these tips in the Library catalogue and databases to enhance your search:

  • Phrase searching

Phrase searching means searching for two words or a string of words as an exact phrase. By using this technique you will only retrieve articles where those words appear together in the text. To search for a phrase, add double quotes around the terms. For example: "body image".

  • Truncation

The truncation symbol (usually an asterisk *) is useful for finding different endings of a word. It is added after the last common letter of the variations. For example the search term teen* will search for teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers.

Activity: Identify keywords from a question