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Information Literacy History: I want to find an article

Journal articles

You will come across articles from scholarly journals fairly early on in your study. Research results and new insights are often first published in scholarly journals making them an important part in scholarly communication.

There are scholarly journals in all academic disciplines. In the exact and biomedical sciences in particular, journals play a far bigger role than books. These days, scholarly journals are usually published in electronic form, as e-journals. 

Although the University Library is currently still subscribing to hundreds of printed journals, it also offers access to over 30.000 (!) e-journals. Printed volumes are not for loan, but can be consulted in the library. E-journals are accessible online for students and scholars of the University of Groningen. 

There are various ways of finding articles published in these e-journals. SmartCat gives access to all articles, but direct access through so-called full-text databases and indirect access through so-called bibliographic databases is also possible. It is not very easy to distinguish between the two so both are usually referred to as electronic databases.

An overview of all electronic databases the UL has a license for can be found on the Library portal.

These databases are usually geared towards a specific discipline and can therefore have an advantage over SmartCat which is an interdisciplinary search engine.


To find out which database is the best one to use for your subject, you can consult a subject-specific LibGuide. 

There you will find the most important (bibliographic) databases for your field of study.


Bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases provide an overview of publications in a particular discipline, about a particular subject or publications by a particular author (books, book chapters, journal articles, reviews etc.) regardless of the location of the publications. In this respect a database differs from a library catalogue. You should use bibliographic databases if, for example, you want to know all the publications on a particular subject. Bibliographic databases have an extensive search interface and can be searched online. They can be accessed through the Library portal.   

Bibliographic databases contain bibliographic references to books, articles etc. They refer to the title, the author, in which journal the article has been published, in which year, volume, issue etc. Most bibliographic databases also contain a link to the full-text of the article, or in the case of an e-book, a link to the content of the e-book. This link is only shown if the library actually has a licence for the e-book or e-journal. Sometimes the databases themselves contain the full-text of scholarly publications (journal articles). In that case you have direct access the text. 

Many bibliographic databases relate to a specific discipline (or part of it). Others cover all or several disciplines. The advantage of searching in a bibliographic database is that it enables you to search thoroughly and precisely in a specific discipline or on a specific subject. They offer more extensive search options and generally contain help tools such as a list of keywords geared to the specific discipline or subject or a thesaurus, which simplifies finding relevant publications. 

The disadvantage is that you, as a RUG student, do not necessarily have access to the publications. If this is the case you could try using ILL (Interlibrary Loan).

Linking to the full text

In most bibliographic databases the University Library has provided a link from the bibliographic reference to the full text of the article or e-book. By using the Get It! button you can check whether you, as a RUG student, actually have access to the text. In other words, whether the Library has a licence for the e-book or e-journal. The Get It! button has the same function as the View Now button in SmartCat. In addition, full-text databases offer their own links to the text in PDF or HTML.

Types of bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases: these only contain bibliographic references, sometimes with an abstract or a short description of the contents. Some databases provide a link to the full text of the publication in other databases (e.g. in e-journals).

Full-text databases: these contain not only the bibliographic reference but also the full text of the publication, which in many cases is fully searchable.

Citation databases: these contain not only the bibliographic reference but also a link to the citations (= other publications that mention the publication).

Examples of bibliographic databases

An overview of electronic databases

For an overview of all electronic databases accessible through the Library, click on the link below. In this overview you will find not only bibliographic databases, but also electronic dictionaries, medical atlases, statistical databases, image databanks etc. 

Electronic databases RUG

Finding journal articles in SmartCat

If you are looking for a specific article (a so-called 'known item') you can use SmartCat to find it. You can search for it using the article title and/or the author‘s name.

If you are looking for articles on a particular subject, go to ‘Advanced Search’ and type in keyword or subject. Then go to the filter options in the left-hand menu to select articles only. 

More information on searching for articles in SmartCat

SmartCat: Searching for Journal Articles

SmartCat: Searching for a Journal Title