How to find journal articles

There are 2 ways to find journal articles.  Choose which best suits your needs according to the information you have available.

If you have the citation details of a journal article that you know you want, then you can search directly for that article, either through StirGate or through the E-Journal Gateway.

If instead you don't know the citation details of a particular journal article but wish to search for articles on a concept or topic, then it is best to choose the 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

Use the A-Z list of online resources to find a database that covers the subject area you are interested in. A database is an electronic index to journal articles. If you don't know which databases to use, choose your subject from the list of 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 databases on the A-Z list normally only provide the brief details and a summary of journal articles, or if they do provide the full text it will 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 this to see if the full text of the article, or a printed copy is available from the Library.   
  • 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

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! Journals are very expensive, and get more expensive every year. 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 are in the third or fourth year of your degree or a postgraduate student 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 the journals held in university libraries across Scotland and the SUNCAT catalogue is a comprehensive source of information about the location of journals held in libraries throughout the UK. Online user guides are available. 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 database - use the Select a Subject option at the top of the A-Z list of online resources page to see a list 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 instead.
  • 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 Research Guides by Subject  to help you find other types of information, and see the Survive your Essay Tutorial for help with defining your topic, choosing the right sources, etc
  • You might have a very difficult topic - so get help


About WebBridge

WebBridge icon

How do I use WebBridge?

Using WebBridge when doing research is easy. Simply look for the WebBridge button when searching in many of the databases offered by the library.

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, issue 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 have paid for access to the full text. However this relies on data from a number of different publishers and suppliers and currently all this information is not available on the system.  We are developing the sources of information and hope in the coming months the accuracy of the system will greatly improve.

In some cases, WebBridge is not able to construct a valid link because of incorrect or insufficient information from the reference within the database. Sometimes it is because the system hosting the journal is having some technical problems.

Although you can not locate the full text of journal articles or book chapters using WebBridge, 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. For example, there might be an error in the reference in the database and the WebBridge server does not have enough information to construct a path to the full text. It is always worth checking the library catalogue separately if you have had no luck with WebBridge.  Link to thelibrary catalogue 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 browse down 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.

Since WebBridge is a new service, the entire holdings of the library have not yet been loaded. We are currently working on adding more details to the WebBridge system.

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). If you are using the Internet Explorer browser or the Google Toolbar you may need to disable the pop-up blocker so that the WebBridge window can open.

To temporarily 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

Google Toolbar

If you have downloaded the Google Toolbar on your web browser this also has a pop-up blocker.

To temporarily switch off the Google Toolbar

  1. Click the Options button within your Google toolbar
  2. Uncheck the Pop-up Blocker option in the Accessories section
  3. Click OK
  4. 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 can disable pop-up blocking for a particular site by simply clicking the pop-up blocker button *** on the Google toolbar when you try to open a new pop-up window.

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.