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Help with Library Research

How to find an Article using a Scholarly Database

This tutorial will explain how to: 

  • Select a database to search by using the library's Research Guides
  • Search for articles in a database by using keywords
  • Refine your search results for relevancy
  • How to choose and access electronic articles 
  • How to request articles through Document Delivery

Getting Started by using the Research Guides

The navigation bar is located at the top of all MSVU web pages. Click the fourth link in this bar labelled ‘Library’ to access the library's main webpage.


  1. Click on the Help Guides & Library Account tab on the main MSVU Library page 
  2. Click the Research Guides icon located beneath the Library services search field.


Research Guides icon


The list of Guides is sorted alphabetically. By picking the subject best related to your assignment, you will be guided to the databases most helpful to you.



For example, let’s select the Applied Human Nutrition Research Guide.


Once you have selected a subject, you will find a list of databases, with the most frequently used databases for this subject at the top.
Click on name of the database you want to search. 

For this example, we will choose Academic Search Premier


You may be prompted to log in to the database. 

Log in with the same username and password you use to access your MSVU email.

Searching a Database


It is important to understand a database search is not like a Google search.

Let's use "How nutrition impacts children's school performance" as an example topic for an assignment.
If we enter the topic as one long sentence in the first text box, we will likely only get a few results. In the example below, searching with the sentence "the impact of nutrition on school performance in children" has returned only 9 results.

There is surely more on this topic!


Instead, we must break our topic down into the main concepts, or keywords.
The main concepts for our example topic are “Nutrition” and “School performance” and “Children”.
In the text fields at the top of the page, type ‘nutrition’ into the first box, ‘school performance’ in the second box, and 'children’ in the third box. Then click the ‘search’ button located to the right of the fields. 

Please note that not every search must use all three boxes; you may use one, two, or all three.


Because we searched with keywords, we find many more results: over 4000 in this example.



These results can be further improved by using the options under the ‘Refine Results’ heading on the left side of the page.

Refining your results


Refining your results can filter them to better suit your specific topic. Your filter options will be found under the ‘Refine Results’ heading on the left side of the page. 

1.   For example, under the ‘Limit To’ heading, you can check the box labeled ‘Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Journals.’ This will remove resources that are not considered scholarly, like popular magazines and newspapers. 

2.   If you only want to find articles published within a certain time period, you can adjust your publication time frame using the ‘Publication Date’ slider, or by entering specific years into the text boxes located above the slider. 

3.    Clicking any of the x buttons beneath the Limiters heading will remove that option and reset your results accordingly.




Choosing and Accessing Articles

Now, let’s look at our search results. When you click on the title of an article in your results list, you will be provided with the article’s details, including subject terms and abstract.


An abstract is a summary of the article and is a good way to check if the article is relevant to your assignment. 


If the article is very relevant, it’s a good idea to see what subject terms were used. Searching for other articles with these subject terms should bring up other useful articles. 


If the full text is available, the link will be in a column on the left side of the article page. Clicking on either the ‘PDF Full Text’ link or ‘HTML Full Text’ link will bring you to the full article.




When the article opens, there is a list of icons to the right side of the page. These icons allow you to save, print, or email the article to yourself. 



If the PDF or HTML Full Text link is not available, click on the ‘Check for Full Text’ link in the column on the left side of the page.

This checks other collections in our library to see if we have the full text from another provider.

If we have access to the full text, click on the link that appears below the heading Full Text Availability

Click on the first link below Full text Availability


Requesting an Article via Document Delivery

Not all articles are available in full text online. If the article isn’t online, you may want to look at another article in your results list. Or, you can request it from another university to be delivered to you for free by email via Document Delivery.  

For the tutorial on how to place an article request through Document Delivery, please follow this link: Requesting Journal Articles.



1.    Select a subject guide that best fits your topic
2.    Select a database from the guide – the most frequently used databases are always at the top of the page.
3.    Break your topic down into key words or ideas
4.    Adjust the filters to refine your search
5.    Access Full Text articles using the ‘PDF Full Text’, ‘HTML Full Text’, or ‘Check for Full Text’ links located on the left of the article page. Articles without full text online may still be available from other universities through Document Delivery.


Research Tip: It is a good idea to run a couple of searches using the different terms you have encountered while finding articles with your first search.


And remember, Research Help staff are always happy to help you at any stage of the research process. To book a research appointment, please visit our Research Help Libguide.