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Finding Articles: Using Project MUSE

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. 

Using Project MUSE

Project MUSE is a database which excels in humanities and social science content. It includes over 350 full-text, peer-reviewed journals, as well as many full books. This database have two main ways to explore its content: through keyword searches, or browsing by subject. The first, exploring through searches, should be a familiar format:

Screencap of Project MUSE keyword search.

There is the first main search bar across the top, as well as the faceted search boxes underneath which provide the options to set your parameters and search by content, title, author, or publisher, along with a few boolean operators. If you hold your mouse over the "browse" button you will also see a menu pop up with the different ways you can browse (by subject within research area, or by all titles alphabetically, or by publisher or journal).

Screencap of Project MUSE browse function.

There are also a few other advanced search options that you can take advantage of when using keyword searches in Project MUSE. On the left side of the advanced search screen, or the results page, you will find a list of various facets to help narrow your search. These include limiting your results to "Only content I have full access to," as well as to materials published within certain date ranges (a common requirement from professors being using only the most recent research), among other options.

Screencap of Project MUSE filters.

When you find an item that you like, you can click on the blue title text to open the document. You can also open an article in different formats by clicking the related links (e.g. viewing an HTML record or downloading the PDF). Another helpful option is that you can follow the source link just below the title to view the entire issue of the journal a particular article was first published in, allowing you to find similar or related materials with ease.