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Finding Articles: Using JSTOR

This guide will aid in finding scholarly articles from the databases available at Illinois College.

Database Search Tricks

Most databases tend to share a number of the same search tricks as you can use in our VuFind catalog.

  • About stop words -- Most databases ignore very common English words and contractions, sometimes called "stop words." Be careful when using stop words in searches as you may get unexpected results (e.g. searching for "Into the Wild" will ignore both "into" and "the" and search only for "wild"). For a full list of stop words ignored by VuFind searches, follow this link. Again, most of these stop words will be in common between VuFind and most databases.
  • Use quotations marks to keep phrases together like "West Side Story" and "social justice". But be careful -- make sure something is really a phrase or you might miss important results. Stop words may still be ignored in exact phrase searches!
  • Use truncation (putting * after the root of a word) to find variations of a word. Librar* finds library, libraries, librarian, and librarians. This can be a very useful tool for expanding a search to include related terms.
  • Using boolean operators -- these are simple words (ANDORNOT) used as conjunctions to combine or exclude keywords in a search, resulting in more focused and productive results. This should save time and effort by eliminating inappropriate hits that must be scanned before discarding.
    • AND -- requires both terms to be in each item returned. If one term is contained in the document and the other is not, the item is not included in the resulting list. (Narrows the search)
    • OR -- either term (or both) will be in the returned document. (Broadens the search) 
    • NOT -- the first term is searched, then any records containing the term after the operators are subtracted from the results. (Be careful with use as the attempt to narrow the search may be too exclusive and eliminate good records). If you need to search the word not, that can usually be done by placing double quotes around it.
  • Using parentheses -- Using the ( ) to enclose search strategies will customize your results to more accurately reflect your topic. Search engines deal with search statements within the parentheses first, then apply any statements that are not enclosed.
    • Example: A search on (smoking or tobacco) and cancer returns articles containing: smoking and cancer; tobacco and cancer smoking; cancer, and tobacco; but does not return smoking or tobacco when cancer is not mentioned. 


JSTOR is a very popular general use database which provides full text searches of almost 2,000 journals, and many full books as well. Although you can find materials covering a wide range of topics, JSTOR is typically best for finding literary criticism and reviews.

Screencap of JSTOR home screen.

The JSTOR home page looks a lot like Google with a single easy search bar in the middle. By default, keywords will search all text. By clicking the "Advanced Search" link below the main search bar, you can find other options, such as title searches or author searches which can be selected from drop-down menus (as shown below) and allow you to search for your keywords appearing in only the title, or only by a particular author. You can add additional search fields by clicking the "Add Field +" button below the initial search boxes. If you want to exclude certain terms from your search, you can also use the drop-down menu on the left-hand side of each search bar to "NOT" which will indicate you want results that do not include a given term. JSTOR also defaults to "Read and download" as the access type, meaning that the results of your search should be available in full text.

Screencap of JSTOR search fields.

There are also a few other advanced search options that you can take advantage of when using JSTOR. Just below the search fields you will find a list of options under the heading "Narrow By," which allow you to apply search filters to get more specific kinds of results. These include limiting your results to "Articles" under "Item Type" (which will generally help to return only scholarly articles in your search), as well as limiting to certain date ranges (a common requirement from professors being using only the most recent research).

Screencap of JSTOR filters.

You can also refine your search results in a few different ways once you have made an initial search. The most common ways will be to click the "Modify Search" link as highlighted below, which will allow you to change the parameters of your existing search. Another options is to check the "Search within results" box and simply add new terms to the search bar at the top of the screen, which will search for the new keywords only within the results you have already generated.

Screencap of JSTOR search results.

Once you find a particular item that looks good to you, you can click on the blue title link to open the article's record. You can also click on the author's name from the main list of results to see what else they have published. Within an individual article's record you can view and download the article itself, browse all of the references listed within that article, find all of the metadata that you need to create a citation, or even click a simple button to auto-generate a citation for you in a few of the most common formats (MLA, APA, and Chicago) -- though you should always make sure that this citation is pulling the correct information! It's a great tool, but always double-check.

Screencap of an individual record view in JSTOR.