How to find journal articles

There are 2 main ways to find journal articles: 

1. If you already know the journal article you want and have the reference details, then you can search directly for that article through StirGate and link to the PDF file or use the WebBridge button to link to the article.  Or you can search for the journal on the Library Catalogue or the E-Journal Gateway then link to the journal web site and browse to the correct volume, issue and pages for your article.

2. If instead you don't know the reference details of a particular journal article but wish to search for articles on a topic, then it is best to search the library databases.

Database Searching

  1. Find a database to search
  2. Devise a search strategy
  3. Find the full-text of the journal articles
  4. What can I do if the articles I want are not available from the Library?
  5. I can’t find any (or many) articles on my topic – help!
  6. WebBridge
  7. Video on following up references to find the full-text

1. Find a database to search

A database is an electronic index to help you find journal articles on your topic of interest. Use the A-Z list of online resources to link to a database that covers the subject area you are interested in. If you don't know which databases to use, choose your subject from the list of Library Subject Guides. If you are not sure where to start StirGate may be useful - from one simple search box it allows you to search across many of the library’s electronic resources.

2. Devise a search strategy

Before you start your search read our successful search techniques advice. These hints and tips should help you retrieve relevant results quickly.

3. Find the full text of journal articles

The library databases often only provide the brief details and a summary of journal articles, or if they do provide the full text it may only be for some of the articles.

To find the full text of articles:

  • First check if the database provides the full-text by looking for a link to full text or PDF file of the article.
  • If the database uses WebBridge click on the WebBridge button to see if the full text of the article, or a printed copy is available from the Library.  WebBridge icon
  • If WebBridge is not available you should search the Library Catalogue to find out if we have access to the journal in paper or electronic format. Search the Catalogue using the title of the journal. For example, if your reference is:

Jones, A (2012) ‘A very interesting article’, Journal of interesting stuff, 45(3): 564-569

Search the catalogue for: Journal of interesting stuff

and change the drop down box from Entire Collection to Journals

Remember to check in the Catalogue whether we have the correct year and volume for the article you are looking for.

  • Remember we don’t have the full text of everything. No Library could provide all the journal articles – there are too many! The Library would love to buy all the journals and we try to buy as many as we can, and negotiate with publishers to get the best deals we can. But we can’t buy them all.

4. What can do I do if the articles I want are not available in the Library?

If the articles you require are available from a different campus library please request an intercampus loan

If you a third or fourth year Undergraduate, postgraduate student or staff you can use the Document Delivery Service to request any article. Find out more about Document Delivery Service.

You may be able to find the journal you require in another library. The SALSER catalogue gives details of journals held in university libraries across Scotland and the SUNCAT catalogue gives details of journals held in libraries throughout the UK (see SUNCAT guides). See more information about using / visiting other university libraries.

5. I can’t find any (or many) articles on my topic – help!

When you find it difficult to find many articles:

  • Try a different library database - choose your subject from the list of Library Subject Guides to see a list of databases for your subject.
  • Try StirGate - it searches a large number of databases all at once, this can give you new ideas for which database to use next
  • Think about the search strategy you are using - don't just type the title of your essay. Choose only the main keywords. Think about other words that describe the topic and use those as well.
  • See our Successful Search Techniques page - to help you with your search strategy
  • Think about using other types of information - as well as journal articles, what about books, newspaper articles, encyclopaedias? Use the Library Guides by Subject to help you find other types of information.
  • You might have a very difficult topic - so contact us - see Ask a Librarian.


About WebBridge

How do I use WebBridge?

Simply look for the WebBridge button when searching in many of the databases offered by the library.

WebBridge icon

Whenever you see the Check WebBridge button, click on the button and a menu of options will open in a new browser window. You may then:

Note that different databases may display the WebBridge button in different locations. Some display the button on the search results page, while others only show the button in the full record view.

How does WebBridge work?

WebBridge acts as an intermediary service to create a shortcut link between a reference and the full-text. When you click on the WebBridge button, information about the article, such as the journal name, volume and pages is transmitted to the library's WebBridge server. The server then analyses the information, determines if and where the full text is available, and dynamically creates the menu options.

Using WebBridge

While using WebBridge, you may encounter some problems or surprising results. Below are some situations you might come across.

Questions and Answers

Q Why do some links to full text not work?

There are many possible reasons why a full text link would return a "not found" or other error message. Our goal is only to display links when we are entitled to access to the full text of an article. However this relies on data from a number of different publishers and sometimes all this information is not available on the system. 

In some cases, WebBridge is not able to construct a valid link because of incorrect or insufficient information from the reference within the database.

If the link to full text doesn't work or is absent, we may still have the item - see "I can't find an article using WebBridge - what do I do next?"

Q There is no full text link in the menu. Does that mean the article is not available?

A There are many reasons why there might not be a full text link. So it is always worth checking the library catalogue separately if you have had no luck with WebBridge.  Use the link to the library catalogue in the WebBridge window to double check if the library has a copy in print or electronic format.

See also "I can't find an article using WebBridge - what do I do next?"

Q Sometimes the full text link will take me to the article, but other times only to the journal. Why?

WebBridge gets you as close as it can to the full text of the article. However, the publisher's web site sometimes only allows linking to the table of contents or to the journal's home page. When this happens, refer back to the reference in the database and then on the journal site browse the issues until you reach the full text of the article.

Q Why are there multiple links to full text?

There is overlap among the library's electronic journal collections and databases. That's why sometimes you will find that the full text is available from more than one source.

Q Why isn't there a full text link when I know the library has access to the article?

There are many possible reasons why there isn't a full text link, but one possible reason is that the details of the publisher or supplier of the full text are not yet available on the system.  Alternatively, not all publishers or suppliers of information enable or allow linking from the WebBridge tool.

When WebBridge creates the menu options, it does so by matching the reference information with the library's holdings. A full text link is displayed when WebBridge confirms that the library owns an appropriate copy.

WebBridge often provides a convenient shortcut, but if it turns up no results, double check if the library has a copy in print or electronic copy using the library catalogue.

Q I can't find an article using WebBridge - what do I do next?

If you can't find a journal article, book chapter or book via WebBridge, there are number of steps to try next:


Q How can I stop the WebBridge window getting blocked by my pop-up blocker?

When you use WebBridge it opens a new pop-up window in your web browser. Some software automatically blocks pop-up windows (this is to stop many annoying adverts that appear this way). You may need to temporarily disable the pop-up blocker so that the WebBridge window can open.

To switch off the Internet Explorer pop-up blocker:

  1. At the top of the screen choose the Internet Explorer Tools menu, select Pop-up Blocker then Turn Off Pop-up Blocker
  2. Once you've finished using WebBridge you should switch the Pop-up Blocker back on again

Alternatively to allow pop-ups for a particular site you need to add that site to a list:

  1. From the 'Tools' menu select Pop-up Blocker then Pop-up Blocker Settings...
  2. In the Pop-up Blocker Settings dialog box type the web address in the Address of the Web site to allow text box e.g. for ScienceDirect or for WebBridge type
  3. Click Add then Close


Video on following up references to find the full-text

Once you've found a reference to a journal article in a library database, how do you go about finding the full-text of the article? The video below shows the steps involved.



If you have any questions or comments about any of these services or the WebBridge tool please contact the Library Information Desk by email : NEED HELP? Contact Us.