Tips for Finding Articles

  • Use online databases to find articles in journals, newspapers, and magazines (periodicals). You can search for periodical articles by the article author, title, or keyword by using databases in your subject area in Databases.
  • Choose the database best suited to your particular topic--see details in the box below.
  • Use our Ask a Librarian service for help for figuring out which databases are best for your topic.
  • If the article full text is not linked from the citation in the database you are using, search for the title of the periodical in our Catalog. This catalog lists the print, microform, and electronic versions of journals, magazines, and newspapers available in the library.

Finding Periodicals and Periodical Articles

Topic outline for this page:

  • What Are Periodicals?
  • Finding Articles When You Don't Have the Citation
  • Finding the Periodical When You Do Have the Article Citation
  • Locating Periodicals in Olin and Uris Libraries
  • Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals
  • Evaluating Individual Periodical Titles

What are Periodicals?

Periodicals are continuing publications such as journals, newspapers, or magazines.
They are issued regularly (daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly).

The Cornell Library Catalog includes records for all the periodicals which are received by all the individual units of the Cornell University Library (Music Library, Mann Library, Law Library, Uris Library, etc.).

The Cornell Library Catalog does not include information on individual articles in periodicals. To find individual periodical articles by subject, article author, or article title, use periodical databases.

When you know the periodical title (Scientific American, The New York Times, Newsweek) search the Cornell Library Catalog by journal title.

Finding Articles When You Don't Have the Citation

To find an Article, Use Databases

When you don't have the citation to a specific article, but you do want to find articles on a subject, by a specific author or authors, or with a known article title, you need to use one or more periodical databases. But how do you know which periodical index to use?

What kind of periodicals are you looking for?

  • scholarly journals?
  • newspapers and substantive news sources?
  • popular magazines?
  • all three kinds?

[Learn how to identify scholarly journals, news sources, and popular magazines.]

  • If you're not sure which kind of periodical you want or you're not sure which periodical index to use, or if you want help searching, ask a reference librarian.

Remember you can always browse the titles of online periodical databases available online by clicking on this link to the subject categories in the Databases or on the Databases link in the search box on the Library home page.

Finding the Periodical When You Do Have the Article Citation

When You Have a Citation to a Specific Article, Use the Cornell Library Catalog

When you do have the citation or reference to a periodical article--if you know at least the title of the periodical and the issue date of the article you want--you can find its location at Cornell by using the Cornell Library Catalog. Choose "Journal Title" in the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, click in the search box, type in the title of the periodical in the search box, and press <enter>. Don't use the abbreviated titles that are often used in periodical indexes; remember to omit "a," "an" or "the" when you type in the periodical title.

Search examples in the Cornell Library Catalog:

* When searching for the title, Journal of Modern History

Type the following in the search box: journal of modern history

* When searching for the title, Annales Musicologiques: Moyen-Age et Renaissance

You may type the following: annales musicologiques moyen age
(Omit punctuation) (searching is not case sensitive)

Depending on the number of records your search retrieves, you will see either a list of entries or a single record for an individual periodical title. If there is a list of titles, scroll through it and click on the line that lists the journal title you want to see for the call number and location information or the online link(s).

If the journal is available in electronic form, there will be a link or links int the box labelled "Availability" in the catalog record. Click on this link. In most cases, this will take you to the opening screen for the journal, and you can choose the issue you want from there.

If the journal is available in print form, record the call number and any additional location information in the catalog record. Now you're ready to find it on the shelf. Consult the local stack directory for the call number locations in individual libraries.

Locating Print Periodicals in Olin and Uris Libraries

Current Periodicals:

Periodicals noted as "Current issues in Periodicals Room" in the Cornell Library Catalog are print journals shelved by title in the Current Periodicals Room on the main level in Olin Library. This room is immediately to the right and down the hall as you enter Olin Library. Only a small selection of current print periodicals is in this room: all other current periodical issues go directly to the Olin stacks where they are shelved by call number.

Back Issues of Periodicals

Back issues of periodicals are shelved by call number in the Olin and Uris Library stacks. Some back periodicals are shelved in specific subject rooms; watch for location notes in the Cornell Library Catalog record for the title you want.

Pay attention to the + and ++ indicators by the call number. Titles with the + and ++ (Oversize) designations and titles with no plus marks are each shelved in separate sections on each floor in Olin Library and separate floors in Uris Library.

Back issues on microfilm, microfiche, and microprint are housed on the lower or B Level in Olin Library.

Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals

Journals, news publications, and magazines are important sources for up-to-date information across a wide variety of topics. With a collection as large and diverse as Cornell's it is often difficult to distinguish between the various levels of scholarship found in the collection. In this guide we have divided the criteria for evaluating periodical literature into four categories:


Webster's Third International Dictionary defines scholarly as:

  1. concerned with academic study, especially research,
  2. exhibiting the methods and attitudes of a scholar, and
  3. having the manner and appearance of a scholar.

Substantive is defined as having a solid base, being substantial.

Popular means fit for, or reflecting the taste and intelligence of, the people at large.

Sensational is defined as arousing or intending to arouse strong curiosity, interest or reaction.

Keeping these definitions in mind, and realizing that none of the lines drawn between types of journals can ever be totally clear cut, the general criteria are as follows.


Scholarly journals are also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed journals.
Strictly speaking, peer-reviewed (also called refereed) journals refer only to those scholarly journals that submit articles to several other scholars, experts, or academics (peers) in the field for review and comment. These reviewers must agree that the article represents properly conducted original research or writing before it can be published.

To check if a journal is peer-reviewed/refereed, search the journal by title in Ulrich's Periodical Directory--look for the referee jersey icon.

What to look for:

  • Scholarly journal articles often have an abstract, a descriptive summary of the article contents, before the main text of the article.
  • Scholarly journals generally have a sober, serious look. They often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
  • Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. These bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.
  • Articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The affiliations of the authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article--universities, research institutions, think tanks, and the like.
  • The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some technical background on the part of the reader.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization.

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

Substantive News or General Interest

These periodicals may be quite attractive in appearance, although some are in newspaper format. Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs.

What to look for:

News and general interest periodicals sometimes cite sources, though more often do not.

Articles may be written by a member of the editorial staff, a scholar or a free lance writer.

The language of these publications is geared to any educated audience. There is no specialty assumed, only interest and a certain level of intelligence.

They are generally published by commercial enterprises or individuals, although some emanate from specific professional organizations.

The main purpose of periodicals in this category is to provide information, in a general manner, to a broad audience of concerned citizens.

Examples of Substantive News and General Interest Periodicals:

  • The Economist
  • National Geographic
  • The New York Times
  • Scientific American
  • Vital Speeches of the Day


Popular periodicals come in many formats, although often slick and attractive in appearance with lots of color graphics (photographs, drawings, etc.).

These publications do not cite sources in a bibliography. Information published in popular periodicals is often second or third hand and the original source is rarely mentioned.

Articles are usually very short and written in simple language.

The main purpose of popular periodicals is to entertain the reader, to sell products (their own or their advertisers), or to promote a viewpoint.

Examples of Popular Periodicals:

  • Ebony
  • Parents
  • People Weekly
  • Readers Digest
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Vogue

Sensational or Tabloid

Sensational periodicals come in a variety of styles, but often use a newspaper format.

Their language is elementary and occasionally inflammatory. They assume a certain gullibility in their audience.

The main purpose of sensational magazines seems to be to arouse curiosity and to cater to popular superstitions. They often do so with flashy headlines designed to astonish (e.g., Half-man Half-woman Makes Self Pregnant).

Examples of Sensational Periodicals:

  • Globe
  • National Examiner
  • Star
  • Weekly World News

Evaluating Periodicals: Magazines for Libraries

Magazines for Libraries describes and evaluates journals, magazines, and newspapers:

Magazines for Libraries. Cheryl LaGuardia, editor. Annual. New York: Bowker.
Print only. Olin Reference Z 6941 .K21 +; Latest edition shelved behind the Olin Reference Desk. Earlier editions shelved in the Uris Library Stacks (Z 6941 .K21 +)
An annotated listing by subject of over 6,000 periodicals. Each entry gives name of periodical, beginning publication date, publisher, editor, address, price and such information as indexing, size, and level of audience. Short abstracts describe the scope, political slant, and other aspects of the publication. Arrangement is topical, bringing magazines and journals on like subjects together. To find an individual title, use the title index at the end of the volume.

Or ask for assistance at the reference desk.

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