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UW1020: Writing for Social Change

How to Search for Journal Articles

Research Strategy

  1. Define your object of study.
  2. Identify what conceptual framework(s) you will use to analyze your object of study.
    • Are there multiple conceptual frameworks?
  3. Determine what type of sources you need (books, scholarly articles, magazines, documentaries, etc.).
  4. Decide where to look for scholarly sources about that conceptual framework.
    • Decide which database covers that conceptual framework.
  5. Decide how to search (e.g., keywords, date range, scholarly vs. non-scholarly sources)


Schedule an appointment with a research librarian to help you find databases and articles:


You can also consult our library research guides:

Library Learning Modules

How Do I? Quick Tutorials for Commonly Asked Questions

We have many resources, including short video tutorials, available at

Some examples include:


Still stuck?

Schedule a free 30-minute appointment with a research librarian (both virtual and in-person options available). 

Finding the Right Database

GWU Library databases:

*If you are off campus, log into the GW VPN before searching. Use to conneAn example of general databases (e.g., EBSCO) and the more discipline specific databases that it includesct.

It can be helpful to start broad. For example, Academic Search Complete will include a lot of information from a variety of sources. If you already have a relevant source, you may also want to search by journal name to identify the databases that contain that journal. 


Which database is right for me? We have some suggestions but this is not a comprehensive list!


Another way to select a database is to start by searching multiple databases. Then, identify the databases that contain the most relevant information to your specific conceptual framework.

A screenshot of how to choose databases from a more general database search


Finding the Right Database from a Journal Title

You can also start with a relevant journal and find out what library databases contain information about that journal. To do this, use the search bar on the library homepage ( ). Select Journal Title, and search for the journal. Select the journal from the search results. Scroll to View Online and identify the databases that contain this information. You can also view what issues are available in each database.

From the library homepage, search Journal Title. The results will identify the databases that contain information about that journal.


How to Search Databases

How to Search a Database for Scholarly Sources

Once you have selected a database, it’s time to search! Here are a few helpful hints.
First, when searching library databases, identify a few keywords that are associated with your conceptual framework. Searching a database is different from a Google search – too much information will yield poor results! 

Use Subject Terms and Keywords to search.

Boolean search terms showing venn diagrams of AND (intersection), OR (both circles) and NOT (one full circle excluded)

Boolean Searches

You can combine search terms in different ways:

  • AND returns only articles that contain all of the search terms you specified. This is the most restrictive type of search. 
  • OR returns articles that contain any of the search terms you specified. This is the broadest type of search.
  • NOT returns articles that contain one search term but do not include the second.



More Hints and Tricks

  • Put quotation marks ("") around a phrase to search for the complete phrase
    • E.g., "writer's block" only searches for the complete phrase and will not break up the two words.
  • Use an asterisk (*) to search for variations on a word
    • E.g., writ* would return all articles that contain writing, writer, writhing, etc.






Once you have performed your search, use the filters on the left side of the page to narrow your results by Source Type, Date, and more.

This is a good place to select options such as only Peer Reviewed articles, or to restrict a date range.

A screenshot of delimeters, such as selecting only Peer Reviewed articles. 


Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar can help perform very broad searches. This is excellent if you are not sure exactly what you are looking for, or if you are not limited to a particular type of resource (e.g., you are interested in articles, whitepapers, books, news). The library's databases are curated, meaning they include only information relevant to a particular topic, and often do not include books. Each type of search has its place, depending on your research goals.

Before you use Google Scholar, set My Library so you have immediate access to articles that GW holds. You will still need the GW VPN for this function if you are off campus.

Go to Google Scholar Settings, Library Links, and set GWU as your library before searching Google Scholar.

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