Chapter 2: Locating information

2.7 Article indexes and databases

Quick Search is the best place to start your research if books or book chapters are what you need. Quick Search can help find some articles; however, if you find you need more results or highly specialized articles, the library has other tools that may be more effective.

When you need to find a comprehensive set of articles on your topic, the most efficient finding tool to use is an article index. In the context of scholarly research, an index is an article finding tool, rather than a list of topics and page numbers in the back of a book. Article indexes (sometimes referred to as databases) help you identify and find articles on your topic. An article index allows you to search for your topic in hundreds of journals at once, so using an index is a huge time saver when you don’t have one specific journal in mind. Some indexes also cover magazines, newspapers, book chapters, conference presentations, dissertations, or other materials.

Which index should you choose?

The ISU Library subscribes to hundreds of article indexes providing access to articles. Each index is different in terms of:

  • subject(s) covered
  • types of materials included
  • whether materials are peer-reviewed
  • whether abstracts or full text materials are provided
  • dates included
  • languages included
  • overall look and search options

Words you might not know!

Abstracts are brief summaries of articles, books, and other published materials. These help you decide whether you want to read the full item.

Features of article indexes

Indexes provide a variety of robust advanced search features to help researchers focus their searches. You can typically select, sort, and download articles or article abstracts. For scholarly research, indexes tend to be either general purpose or subject-focused.

Strengths and weaknesses of indexes

Strengths

  • The best finding tool for locating scholarly articles
  • Provide many robust search features that give you control over your searches
  • Provide a list of what subjects and dates are covered
  • Provide a list of which journals and conference publications may be found within
  • Connect directly to full-text articles
  • Subject-specific indexes cover an extensive set of journal articles and other materials focused on a subject area

Weaknesses

  • Often too specific for finding general or background information
  • Interfaces may be clunky or not compatible with mobile devices
  • May not include the full text of articles

License

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Library 160: Introduction to College-Level Research by Iowa State University Library Instruction Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.