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What are journals and databases?

You've probably heard of peer-reviewed or scholarly articles before. Your instructor may even have required that you find and use them. But what exactly does that mean? 

Researchers often publish the results of their work in journals. There are many journals published on almost every topic imaginable, and they are often referred to as "scholarly journals," or "peer-reviewed journals." 

Journals contain articles on a specific subject written by scholars in the field. The articles are usually on very specific, specialized topics. For example, recent articles published in The Philosophical Review include "A Good Friend Will Help You Move a Body: Friendship and the Problem of Moral Disagreement" by Daniel Koltonski and "Probabilistic Knowledge and Cognitive Ability" by Jason Konek. 

Scholarly articles can be very challenging to read if you're not familiar with the words and ideas that are commonly used by writers and researchers in the field. But they are also a great way to get to know what ideas, questions, and concerns are important in the field at any given time. 

Databases are collections of articles published in many of the journals in a particular field. They allow you to search across many journals at once for articles on a specific topic. Libraries pay for access to databases, and they provide one of the best ways to access current research on a topic. 

How do I find articles?

The first step is to think about your topic and identify the main ideas you are working with. What are the key, central ideas in your research question? Is there a person you need to learn more about? A particular theory or idea? 

These are the keywords that you can use to search for articles. Library search engines don't deal well with natural language searching, meaning that you can't enter a sentence or a question into the search box and get good results. You have to search for the main ideas and concepts you want to learn more about. 

If there are multiple concepts or ideas, you can combine them in a search using the word "and." For example, if I'm interested in Hegel's thoughts on happiness, I might search for Hegel AND happiness. 

You should also consider other words related to your keywords that might produce results. Consider synonyms (like joy or contentment instead of happiness) or broader terms (like emotion or feeling instead of happiness). Some words have multiple meanings and you might find that using them doesn't bring back what you expect, so it's always useful to consider other ways that someone might describe your topic.

Finally, be sure to look closely at search results. At first glance, it might not seem like the books or articles that come up in your search are relevant. Look at the full record to see if your keywords are in the description or subject terms. Look at results closely before determining that they aren't relevant. Looking at the full records can also give you other ideas for keywords to search. 

Where do I search?

OneSearch doesn't only contain books. It also includes hundreds of thousands of articles. You can limit your search to articles using the drop down or by filtering to articles once you get to your search results. Look for the "peer-reviewed" filter in the left-hand sidebar, but be aware that this filters to peer-reviewed JOURNALS, not articles. There may be some articles (like book reviews and letters to the editor) in the journals that are not, themselves, peer reviewed. 

Search OneSearch

Use this form to search OneSearch. You can choose whether to search keywords, or look for a specific title, author, or subject term. You can also narrow down to the type of item you're looking for.

You may also want to search some databases that are specific to philosophy. These contain citations, and often the full-text, of articles published in philosophy journals.