Searching for academic journal articles

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Searching for academic journal articles

Academic journals are great sources of the latest academic research and you will be expected to use read and use academic journals for your studies. Your lecturer may recommend some journal articles on My Module Resources. but you will be expected to search for your own journal titles too.

Some academic journals are available open access – this means that they may be freely available to read online. Most journals however, require a subscription. The library subscribes to many journals to support your studies.

We recommend you begin your search on Library Search via the Library web page because you can easily build specific searches and the full text of articles you receive in your results will be included within our subscriptions.

Another feature of Library Search is the ability to easily refine your search. You can even choose to return results that are outside of our subscriptions.


Watch the videos above to better understand how academic journals work and then complete the ‘fill in the blanks’ activity below.

Missing word list

Choose from these words:



You may find it useful to practice searching for academic journal articles at the start of your programme. This activity will help you make a start and feel confident when searching for information when you need to do so for your assignments.

    • Go to the Library web page and use Library Search to find one journal article on a topic of interest to you. Use the suggestions or questions below to guide you.
    • Thinking of a topic you are interested try to identify 3 keywords you can use in your search.You may find it useful to watch this Searching with Keywords video.
      You might get a lot of results. Try refining your search to narrow your results.
    • What criteria might you use to select a journal article? (View some suggested criteria below).
    • Open the full text of the article you choose and download it.

Do you feel confident in searching for journal articles for your studies, and in particular your assignments? Do you have any questions? If so you can contact the library by chat, email or on social media.

Suggested criteria for selecting relevant journal articles.

It’s important to ask yourself questions about your search results so that you can evaluate them and choose the most appropriate and relevant sources. The ACT UP model outlined below is a great way to critically question the sources that you find.

Who wrote it? Who are they? Background information matters.

When was it written? When was it published? Does this resource fit into the currency of your topic?

T – truth.
How accurate is this information? Can you verify any of the claims in other sources? Are there typos and spelling mistakes?

U – unbiased. Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view? Resources unless otherwise stated should be impartial.

P – privilege.
Check the privilege of the author(s). Are they the only folks who might write or publish on this topic? Who is missing in this conversation? Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found. How are they described? What are the inherent biases?

Source: ACT UP for Evaluating Sources: Pushing Against Privilege
Copyright Dawn Stahura published in Association of College and Research Libraries’ news magazine

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches across many academic databases to find journal articles. It is particularly good for finding open access content because it indexes many institutional repositories in addition to publisher sites. If an article is available to read open access (free) there will usually be a link to the pdf or html.

The majority of academic journal content is subscription only and the Google Scholar default settings will not alert you to what the University of Sunderland pays for and what it does not. You can easily link Google Scholar to the University of Sunderland subscribed resources.


Read the guide to  Expanding your access to resources using Google Scholar and link your own Google Account to the University of Sunderland Subscriptions.

Academic Journal Articles FAQs

Why can't I access the full text of an article even though I have logged-in?

There are a couple of reasons why this may happen:

If you have logged in, located an article and found that when you click on it, the full text is not available, it is likely that you have been taken to an external database and your login details have not been transferred. This can happen depending on browser or cookie settings. All you need to do is look for a login  or sign-in option and choose either ‘Institutional login’ or ‘Shibboleth login’. This blog post explains how to log into databases and includes screenshots.
If you have definitely logged in as explained above and the full text is still not available it is most likely because the journal title is not included within the library’s subscriptions. Unfortunately we cannot subscribe to all journal titles and unless an article is open access, you will only be able to read articles within journals we do subscribe to.

Is there a limit to how many journals articles I can download, or on how long I can keep them?

No. You can download as many journal articles as you need to. Once you’ve downloaded them you can keep them but remember the intellectual property still belongs to the author so you should comply with intellectual property and copyright law. Visit the Copyright Licensing Agency for more information.

Can I save my results if I don't have time to check them?

Yes. Create an account with My EBSCOhost and you will be able to save any articles for later. Please ensure you are logged in to the ‘My EBSCOhost’ area though, because if you’re not, it will save articles to a temporary folder which will be deleted when you close your browser. Read our blog post about using My Discover.

Is there a way I can find out about new research on my topic without repeating the search over and over every month?

Yes, you can either save a search on Discover and obtain a permalink, create an alert on Discover so  that you receive an email when there are updates or you can use Zetoc to set up alerts which is a database providing access to the British Libraries table of contents. Read the library blog post on Current awareness and saving a search that works!

Can I speak to a librarian about search strategies and finding relevant journal articles?

Yes, you can request a one-to-one chat via Skype with a librarian by completing the one-to-one request form

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