Frequently Asked Reference Questions

Finding Journal Articles

Example Questions That Can Be Answered Using This FAQ

  • I need an article that appeared in the Journal of Fluid Dynamics in 1970.
  • How do I find articles about the Iran-contra scandal?

There are many variations on this question. Our patrons ask us whether a particular article is available online, whether a particular journal is online, or sometimes whether we can send them complete articles on a particular subject.

Free, Full-Text Articles

The Internet is not (yet) a very good place to find free journal (or newspaper and magazine) articles in full text. Most journals are published by companies that are not interested in giving away their content for free, and/or the articles are simply too old to be available in any format other than print or microfilm. However, some journals and magazines have made some selected articles from their publications available in full text. One example of this is The Atlantic Monthly, which allows free online access to articles published from November 1995 to the present. See the “Online Journals, Newspapers, and Magazines” section below for how to find other online journals.

Here are some other places online where you are likely to find free, full-text articles.

  • Open access journal databases: indexes journals that are produced with alternative business plans so that users don’t have to pay for access. Some examples are:
    • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which includes over 7,000 scientific and scholarly journals, covering all subjects and many languages.
    • HighWire Press, which includes over 1,000 peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly content. Be aware that some of its full-text articles are not free.
  • Government databases, which usually provide full-text articles in the sciences. Some examples are:
    • arXive: open access to 730,133 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance, and Statistics.
    • Education Resources Information Center (ERIC): unlimited access to more than 1.4 million bibliographic records of journal articles and other education-related materials.
    • PubMed Central (PMC): a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM).
  • Digital libraries/repositories: partnerships of universities and libraries that collect digital content. Some examples are:
    • HathiTrust: includes full-text journal articles from the 19th-21st centuries.
    • ipl’s State Digital Libraries in the U.S.: a list of state digital libraries that are accessible through a verified login, which is usually a current library card and password that can be obtained at your local public library.
  • Specialty search engines, like Google Scholar, which only searches on scholarly content. Be aware that all the articles it finds may not be free or may not be full-text. You may have to take the citations you find to your local public or college library. See the “Other Sources for Journal Articles” section below for more information.

Online Journals, Newspapers, and Magazines

If you’re looking for articles from a specific journal, newspaper, or magazine, you can do one or more of the following things to find the journal online:

  • Look for it in ipl’s Newspapers & Magazines section.
  • Search for it in NewJour (an online list of journals and newsletters that are available on the Internet).
  • Try typing the journal’s title as keywords in a search engine such as Google.

If you don’t find anything useful, the journal almost certainly does not have an online presence. Also, remember that even in cases where a journal has an online presence, articles more than a few years old are unlikely to be available online or they may require a subscription.

Other Sources for Journal Articles

Still can’t find what you need? Your local public or college library will be best able to help you with articles that require a subscription or articles that are only available in non-electronic formats. There, you can find full-text magazine and journal article databases, such as ProQuest, that you could access from home using your library card or a special login and password. You may also find citations for articles on particular topics by searching an index such as the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Ask one of the librarians to tell you what’s available. If your library doesn’t have the specific article(s) you need, ask about whether they offer an interlibrary loan service that could help you get copies of the articles from another library that does.

Not sure how to find your library? Go to our Library Locator page where we’ve listed resources to help you find the nearest physical library to you.

This FAQ updated by Kara Larson in 2012.