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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 1c. Articles and Databases

A guide to help you through the steps of the research process.

Understanding Periodicals

A periodical is a term used to describe any publication that is issued periodically — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or at some other interval. Examples of periodicals include newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. It is important to understand the difference between types of periodicals in order to find the most relevant materials for your information need. 

Popular: Popular periodicals are also known as consumer magazines. They are directed at the general public, and can cover a broad or narrow topic of interest. They usually contain short articles on a variety of topics written by various authors in an informal style. They are useful for their coverage of current events and popular opinion.

Trade: Trade periodicals are also known as professional magazines. They are geared towards the interests of a specific industry or occupation. Articles usually fall somewhere between popular and scholarly—short to medium in length, can contain some advertisements or illustrations, and may or may not contain a bibliography. They are useful for their “insider” coverage of industry trends, practices, and opinions.

Academic: Academic periodicals are also known as scholarly journals or peer-reviewed journals. Written by and for professionals in a particular field, usually employing industry jargon or sophisticated terminology. They consist of original research and commentary on current developments within a specific discipline. Articles are often lengthy, include minimal illustrations and advertisements, and almost always include a bibliography. Useful for their original and rigorous approaches to problem solving by experts in a particular field.

Choosing a Database

Article databases provide you with 24-7 access to magazine, journal and newspaper articles. To help you identify the most appropriate database for your research topic:

  • consult the Academy of Art Library's Database A-Z  guide and/or
  • Use the Subject Guide for your school of study. Relevant databases are listed on the Articles and Databases tab.

Article Formats

Depending on the database you are using, articles may be displayed in different formats:

  • Index: Includes only the article citation (i.e., author, title, date, etc.). Neither a summary, nor the full-text of the article are available.
  • Abstract: Includes the citation and a summary of the article's content. It does not include the full-text article.
  • Full-text: Includes the citation and full-text article. This may be in HTML, .pdf, or both formats.

If you are not in the habit of reading scholarly journal articles, they can be difficult to read and understand. Here is a primer on how to read scholarly articles followed by a worksheet you can use to help you understand and evaluate a scholarly article.

Finding Articles in a Library Database

Accessing AAU Databases

Unless otherwise noted, you can access all of the subscription websites and databases without logging in when in the library or other AAU buildings. To access these resources from off-campus, when prompted, enter your login credentials for Brightspace. Some resources require a separate username and password; please read the description of each resource for more information. If you have trouble accessing any of the websites or databases, contact

Open Source Journals

Open source journals provide unrestricted, free access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.