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Finding Articles at USC

Selecting a Database | Database Strengths and Weaknesses | Search Strategies
Articles That Are Not Available Online  | Articles That Are Not in USC Libraries 

Selecting a Database

If you have an idea of what you need to find -- articles in trade publications, for example -- use our Database Selection Guide to help you select your starting point. If you have a more general topic, such as articles about a company's marketing strategy, read the strengths and weaknesses section below for some ideas. You can also contact the libraries if you need more help.

Database Strengths and Weaknesses

All article databases have strengths and weaknesses and the best choice for one topic may be inapplicable for another. Here are some of the major databases for finding articles on business topics and some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Database Name



ABI/Inform Academic writing, broad searches over multiple disciplines. Easy to limit to specific companies. Select "Show peer-reviewed articles" to limit your search to scholarly writing.

More difficult to limit to one industry category than Factiva or Lexis-Nexis.

Factiva Current news and trade publications. Easy to limit a search to an industry or geographic area. Has the largest amount of trade journals. Difficult to combine subject terms; academic product omits some key titles but doesn't specify which (e.g., The Los Angeles Times).
General Business File Academic writing, broad searches. Select "Limit to refereed publications" to limit your search to scholarly publications. Difficult to combine search fields.
Lexis-Nexis Current news. Easy to limit by industry or broad geographical area. Segmented nature makes it easier to miss important articles; no subject indexing.
WilsonBusiness Current news, trade publications, academic writing, including book citations. Can limit by full-text. Business-related publications only; not all results available in full-text.

Find any publication USC Libraries has online access to by searching the magazine or journal title in SerialsSolution.

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Search Strategies

While databases have different strengths, many of the same strategies for searching are effective in most databases. Some of the key strategies are:

Defining your topic

Any search will be more effective if you think about what you are looking for before you begin to search.  There are often multiple ways to define a topic; using differenct descriptions can help you find things you would have otherwise missed. Try to break your search into several keywords or phrases and then combine them, as described below.

Combining search terms
Article databases use more advanced search syntax than Web search engines. Understanding how they are different can make your search more efficient. One of the primary differences is the way that you combine search terms; this is done with the keywords "and," "or" and "not." Use these to narrow or broaden your search.


What It Finds


And Both terms must be present. Narrows your search by adding terms. Marshall and Business
Or One term must be present; both terms might be present. Broadens your search by adding terms such as synonyms or alternate spellings. Mac or PC
Not (sometimes And Not) One term must not be present. Narrows your search by excluding terms. Linux not Windows

Wild cards and truncation
There are times when you aren't exactly sure how something is spelled or you are searching for multiple words that have similar roots. Truncation and wild cards can help. These involve inserting special characters instead of letters so that the database will search for variations.

  • Wild cards replace one or more letters like this: Marsh*ll. This will find Marshall, Marshill, Marshell, etc.
  • Truncation searches for the root of a word like this: Psycho? This will find psychology, psychographic, etc. but not psychiatry.

Note: These are examples. The actual characters used will vary by database. Always consult the online help for the database that you are using before using wild cards or truncation.

Subject searching

Another way that article databases differ from Web search engines is subject indexing.  Subject indexing is a way of describing what articles are about.  The subject terms used often differ from the keywords that you use to search; by using subject terms to define your search, you can find things you might have missed otherwise. It can also eliminate irrelevant articles that might mention your search term but not in any meaningful way.
Subject terms have different names and these vary according to database. (A few databases don't use them.) You can often discover what they are called as well as discovering some that match your search by doing a search using keywords and then looking at some of your results. Look for entries like subject, subject term or descriptor.

Finding Articles That Are Not Available Online

Many article databases include the full text of the articles that you find using these databases. There will be times when the full text is not available. In these cases, the first step is to consult HOMER, the online library catalog, to determine whether USC has the journal that you need in print.
When searching HOMER, you need to find the title of the journal where your article was published rather than the title of the article. HOMER can tell you which journals USC has but not about the contents of those journals.

Finding Articles in Publications That USC Does Not Own

There will be times that you find references to articles in publications that are not in the USC libraries. There are several ways you can get these:

  • Consider whether the journal might be related to law or medicine.

    The collections of the USC Law and Health Sciences Libraries are not included in HOMER. These libraries have their own online catalogs that are open to all USC students:
  • Check to see if another area library has the journal that you need.

    There are two major resources for doing this:
    • Melvyl, the UC libraries catalog: This includes information on periodical holdings for the UC system. You will need to check with these libraries about any access restrictions they have for visitors.
    • WorldCat: This is a cooperative catalog that shows information for libraries across North America, including most local public and academic libraries.

  • Request a copy of the article through USC's Integrated Document Delivery Service.

    This a free service for students, faculty and staff. You can get copies of articles and borrow books that USC does not own through this service. You can make requests online: you need a current library barcode and you can not have any fines or overdue items in your library patron account.


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