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Find Articles by Subject

Quick Help

Use Easy Search, found on the  Main Library's homepage, to search for keywords pertaining to your topic. Use the dropdown menu next to the search box to designate broad categories to include in the search. To include more than one category, use the Advanced Search.

Consider looking through  Subject Guides created by librarians. If your Easy Search includes keywords to a Subject Guide, there will be a note at the top of the results page.

To search for journals by subject, use the  Subject Search tab within the Online Journals & Databases tool.  

Once you have located a journal or database using one of the above methods, use the limiting options (such as date range, document type, etc.) and search boxes to further narrow your search.
Finding articles by subject can be the toughest part of doing research. Learn about the Library's different tools that are designed to help you find what you need.

Tips for starting your search

  1. The Undergraduate Library has a series of excellent guides to the research process, including this Types of Databases guide, which offers suggestions for selecting databases and finding articles.
  2. If you are looking for articles in a particular academic discipline, many of the University Library's departmental library websites have subject guides with recommended databases. For instance, here is a subject guide on education from the Education and Social Sciences Library, and here are several  on agriculture from the Funk ACES Library.
  3. If you need help on selecting a database to use for finding articles, please Ask A Librarian. We'll be happy to offer advice based on your research needs.

Use the Easy Search tool

One way to find information and articles on a topic is to search the library's databases and journals.

  1. To do this, go to the Main Library's homepage and type your topic into the "Easy Search" box. You can also choose a subject area to include in your search using the drop-down menu. An "Advanced Search" will allow you to choose and search more than one subject area at a time.   articlebysubject1

  2. The results page contains a lot of information and can be overwhelming. First, check the top box. For popular topics, there may be a link to a Library Subject Guide. Library Subject Guides are pages that librarians have put together containing links, introductory material, reference resources, and search strategies for a particular topic.

    libguide link

  3. The rest of this page breaks your search results down based on the type of resource. The top section contains links to journals, articles, and abstracts that contain the keywords you searched.

    search results

    The following section links to books in Illinois’ catalog and e-books. The last section contains Google and Google Scholar results that use your keywords. Feel free to browse each section in your pursuit for more information.

    search results continued

  4. To look at some of the specific articles your search found, choose any one of the links from the "Journal and Magazine Articles" section at the top of the results page. The matches listed to the right include articles that have your search words anywhere in the article. For this search on gun control, “gun” could only be at the beginning of the article and “control” could be at the end. The phrase results, on the other hand, only include articles that have both words together as you typed them.

    For this search, choose the phrase matches found in Academic Search Premier PLUS (Ebsco).

    phrase matches

    Note: If you are not using a campus computer, you will have to login to see any search results. You will be asked for your NetID and Active Directory password. If you have forgotten what either of these are, visit the Cites Password Manager.

  5. Notice that your search terms have been entered automatically into the search box and quotations have been added to them to indicate that you are searching for phrase matches. Putting quotations around a phrase tells the database to search for those words next to each other.

    Each database is different but most will allow you to both skim the list of articles found and to narrow your results further using keywords and more searching.

    search the database

    For example, if you just want to find information on gun control in England, you can add "England" to the search terms and search again to narrow the results. You can also limit the type of publication, year, language, and more using the menus on the left side of the screen.

    Many articles will have a pdf or html full text version available. If available, there will be a link to it in the description of each article.

    limit the search

Use the Online Journals & Databases tool

Another way to narrow your search is to find and explore specific journals that are relevant to your topic.

  1. To do this, go to the Online Journals & Databases tool found on the Main Library's homepage.

    Shows where O

  2. Choose the "Subject" tab at the top of the page. Scroll through the broad subjects on the left side of the page and choose the one your topic best fits under. The primary limitation of this tool is that you can only choose one subject at a time to search.

    For the topic of "gun control", choose the subject: "Law".

    subject tab

  3. Once you have clicked on a subject, a list of subcategories will appear in the right box. Choose the one that best describes your topic. To choose more than one, hold down the "control" button on your keyboard as you click on each subcategory.

    For this search, choose the "Crime, Criminology, and Law Enforcement" subcategory. Click "Go" to search your terms.


  4. This search will pull up a list of journals that have all been labeled with the subject and subcategory you chose. Browse through these to find one or more that sound like they may have relevant information.

    The journal Accident Analysis and Prevention sounds like it might have articles about gun control and may be a good place to start your search. Under the title of the journal, notice that different databases that cover different dates are listed. For example, Elsevier ScienceDirect Complete contains issues of the publication from 1969 while Elesvier SD Backfile Medicine and Dentistry only contains issues from 1969-1994. Choose the database that matches the dates you need.

    For this search, choose Elsevier ScienceDirect Complete because it covers the widest range of dates.

    journal search results

  5. You will be taken to a Discover pop-up window. Choose "Go" to continue to the publication.

    discover pop-up window

    Note: This is another place in your search where you may be asked to login if you are not using a campus computer. Do so using your NetID and Active Directory password. If you have forgotten either of these, visit the Cites Password Manager.

  6. Every journal, database, and publication has a different interface but most have similar features. From this main page of the Accident Analysis & Prevention journal, you can read through old volumes, search key terms in the journal, download pdf versions of the articles, and even export article citations for use in citation management software.

    browse by subject

  7. Repeat the search just demonstrated using the Online Journals & Databases tool to find and browse through other relevant journals. This is a good strategy for gathering information and articles on a given topic.

Check out some of our other tutorials: