Section 4 – Finding Articles

Section 4 – Finding Articles

Periodicals: Popular Magazines or Scholarly Journals

Magazines and journals are called periodicals because they are issued on a regular or “periodic” basis.  Periodicals are usually separated into two major groups: popular and scholarly.  If you are able to recognize the differences between a popular and scholarly source, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of articles you need.

Popular Magazines

Some examples of popular magazines:

  • Christianity Today
  • Charisma
  • Newsweek
  • Sports Illustrated
  1. Magazines are geared toward the general public.
  2. Magazines contain many photographs and advertisements
  3. Articles are usually shorter and cover a wide range of topics.
  4. Research and current issues are broadly summarized.

Scholarly Journals

Some examples of scholarly journals:

  • Evangelical Review of Theology
  • European Journal of Theology
  • International Journal of Practical Theology
  1. Journals can be easy to recognize if they have the word “journal” in the title.
  2. Journals are usually published on a quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) or monthly basis.
  3. Long, in-depth articles cover case studies, report research and contain bibliographies.
  4. Journals are geared toward scholars, researchers, or professionals.
  5. Journals contain few photographs or advertisements.
  6. Journals are usually sponsored by an academic or professional organization.

Why Use An Article Index?

When you use an online article index, it quickly scans thousands of issues of many different periodicals to find a match for your search terms.  An index will show you which periodicals have articles on your topic.  Otherwise, you would have to look through each issue of each periodical for articles on your topic.

What Will An Article Index Do For Me?

The index will give you a list of articles that match your search terms.  Along with the title of the article, you may be given this information too:

  1. Citation.  The citation will provide the information that you need to find the article.
  • Citations, in the research world, have nothing to do with traffic tickets!  Instead, citations identify published information so others who read your work can verify facts or research the same information more easily.
  • Citations of articles often include the author, title, magazine or journal name, page numbers and publication information. 
  • Citations of Web documents also include a URL and the day the information was accessed.

            Example:   Malakoff, David. Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapses.  Science. 295 (5564):2359. 2002 Mar 29.

  • The list of sources you used when researching your paper is called a bibliography.  These sources are listed in citation format and follow and established style, such as MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), Global University Form & Style, or Chicago Manual of Style.
  1. Abstract.  By reading the abstract (or summary), you can quickly see if the article will be useful for your topic.
  • The abstract of an article is a brief summary of its contents.  Abstracts can save you time by helping you identify the best articles on your topic.

3.  Full text.  Sometimes an index will link directly to the complete text of the article.

  • The complete electronic text of an article is called the full text.  Some databases, like Academic Search Elite and ATLA(S) Religion, provide entire articles online.
  • Some databases even provide a PDF image of the article that includes not only the text of the article but also any graphs, charts, or pictures. 
  • If a link to the full text is not provided by the index, sometimes it will provide alternative ways of accessing or ordering the article from another library.

Article Indexes

General Article Indexes

  • Is your topic general or cross-disciplinary?
  • Currently in the news?

If so, start with one of the general article indexes.  These cover a wide range of subjects and often index a mixture of popular and scholarly sources.  This is often a good place to begin research. 

The Academic Search Elite is an example of a database that indexes articles from magazines and journals on a wide range of topics. 

  • Index to nearly 3,500 U.S. and international titles with over 2,000 full text and 1,500 peer-reviewed titles.

Subject Indexes

  • Is your topic in a particular subject area?

If so, use a subject index.  Subject indexes specialize in a particular subject, and the articles indexed are generally from scholarly sources. 

The ATLA Religion Database is an example of a subject index.

  • Indexes popular and scholarly articles in religion, theology, and biblical studies.            

Have Skills That Travel!

To select an article from an index, choose Indexes & Databases under Research Tools on the Global University Library Web site.  You may also access certain indexes and databases from the search box at the upper left. 

If you need article indexes for a particular subject discipline, such as Education, choose an index/database for that subject.

All indexes look different, but once you’ve learned the basics, it will be like driving a car you’ve borrowed from a friend.  You know there’s a switch to turn on the lights or the radio—you just need to locate the controls.  Even though they may look different, article indexes have similar features.  Check for help screens or ask a librarian.

Good Work!

This section showed you how to use article indexes to identify articles on a subject. 

Now you should be able to:

  • distinguish between popular and scholarly periodicals
  • choose an article index appropriate to your need
  • use it to identify and article on a topic

Before continuing on to section 5, take the self-test.


1.  The record for an article in an index will provide the following information: (Choose one.)

            A.  The date it was published

            B.  The name of the periodical in which the article appears

            C.  The author’s name

            D.  All of the above

2.  You need to find articles about Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality and theological education in Europe. Which one of the following indexes or catalogs would be the most appropriate source to use?  (Choose one.)

            A.  WorldCat

            B.  UN Treaty Collection

            C.  European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism

            D.  GU Online Research Center

3.  You are writing a paper about church growth principles in the United States and you have found the following article:

            “Church Growth Fine Tunes Its Formulas.” Christianity Today, v. 35, no. 7 (June 24, 1991), p. 44.

     Would this be considered a scholarly journal article?

            A.  Yes

            B.  No

4.  You need to find recent articles on the topic of stress related to the demands of ministry. You have searched for the topic in an index using the keyword terms “stress” and “ministry”.      

Below is a record that you found.

                TITLE:                       Specifying Intrusive Demands and Their Outcomes in Congregational Ministry

                AUTHOR:                  Lee, Cameron

                SOURCE:                  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

                SUBJECT TERMS:    Church work




      You want to find more articles on this topic, so you decide to search using one of the descriptor subject terms.  Which of the following searches will focus your search best?  (Choose one.)

            A.  Church work

            B.  Families

            C.  Clergy

            D.  Protestants

5.  How can you tell you are looking at a popular magazine?  (Choose two.)

            A.  Articles are written for the general public

            B.  Articles are in-depth and often have a bibliography

            C.  Issues have lots of photographs

            D.  Issues have few, if any, advertisements

6.  Decide whether each citation is from a popular or scholarly source.

            A.  Lee, Cameron. “Specifying Intrusive Demands and Their Outcomes in Congregational Ministry: A Report on the Ministry Demands Inventory.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 38(4) (Dec 1999) pp.477-489.                   

                                a.  Scholarly source                             b.  Popular source

                B.  Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “Caring for the Caregivers.” Christianity Today. 53(5) (May 2009) pp. 16-18

                                a.  Scholarly source                             b.  Popular source

                C.  Jeyaraj, Jesudason Baskar. “Religion and Politics in Ancient Israel and Modern India: Issues and Inter-Actions.” Evangelical Review of Theology.  32(2) (Apr 2008) pp. 136-155.

                                a.  Scholarly source                             b.  Popular source

7.  Most of the indexes below would help you find information on recent events in Afghanistan. Which of these article indexes would not be a good choice to find this type of information?  (Choose one.)

            A.  New York Times (articles from the last 365 days of the NY Times)

            B.  BIOSIS Previews (articles in the life sciences literature)

            C.  NewsBank (contains current articles from over 500 US and Canadian newspapers)

            D.  LexisNexis (A full text database service strong in law, business, and news)

8.  Which statement about periodical indexes is not true?  (Choose one.)

            A.  Periodical indexes allow you to search for articles by subject.

            B.  Periodical indexes often specialize in a subject or type of material.

            C.  Periodical indexes only index items owned by your library.

            D.  Periodical indexes always contain citations and sometimes also include abstracts or full text.


Answer key:

            1.  The correct answer is D.  The record in an article index provides the information that is essential for locating the article: its author, its title, the name of the periodical in which it is published, date of publication, and sometimes an abstract or summary of  the article.

            2.  European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism (C) is correct because the topic is about Pentecostalism in Europe.

            3.  It is a popular article that appears in Christianity Today, a magazine written for the general public.

            4.  A is correct.  ‘Church work’ is close to the keyword terms you used.  Searching by this subject descriptor should help you focus your search and find other articles on this subject.

            5.  Both A and C are true.  Magazine articles are written for journalists for the general public and magazines have more photos than journals.

            6.  (A) is a scholarly source.  Both the title of the source and the title of the article as well as the length of the article were good hints that it was a scholarly source.

                 (B) is a popular source.  But, were you just guessing?  Or did you notice that the title of the article was of popular interest and the article was fairly short?

                 (C) The Evangelical Review of Theology is a scholarly journal.

            7.  If you chose B,  you’re right.  The BIOSIS index would NOT help you locate recent news.  For that you’d go to the New York Times, NewsBank, or Lexis-Nexis to find articles on the latest events.  BIOSIS is a good index to use to find articles in the     biological sciences.

            8.  C is the right answer.  This statement is not true.  Periodical indexes provide citations to articles published in many periodicals. 

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