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Information literacy - American studies: 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. Both types are usually referred to as electronic databases. These databases can be found here.

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 menu on the left side of the screen to select articles only. 

More information on searching for articles in SmartCat you can find in the SmartCat LibGuide.

SmartCat: Searching for Journal Articles

Finding journal articles in bliographic 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. You should use bibliographic databases if you want to find all publications on a particular subject. Databases can be accessed through the Library portal.  

They contain references to literature and 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 to the content of an e-book. This link is only shown if the library actually has a license for the e-book or e-journal.

The advantage of searching in a bibliographic database over searching in SmartCat is that it enables you to search thoroughly and precisely in a specific discipline or on a specific subject. Databases offer more extensive search options and generally contain help tools such as a list of keywords for a 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).

Types of bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases: only contain bibliographic references, sometimes an abstract or a short description of the item.

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

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


America: history & life is the leading bibliographic database for the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory up to today. The database contains references to literature from over 1.700 journals. Together, America: history & life and Historical Abstracts cover the history of the entire world. Like Historical Abstracts, this database is hosted by EBSCO and its functionality is exactly the same as that of Historical Abstracts.

Link to America: History & Life

Online search help

Google Scholar: interdisciplinary database also useful for American Studies

Google Scholar presents the search results as short records. They contain just enough information to identify the publication.

This is an example of a Google Scholar record:If you work on a computer within the network of the University of Groningen Library you will automatically get a link to the licensed full-text, when available. If you work elsewhere, you have to install the library link facility yourself. This is how you do this:

  • Select the first icon (top left)
  • Select ‘Settings’ 
  • Select ‘Library links’
  • Search for: university groningen
  • Tick: University of Groningen Library – Get It! Univ of Groningen (un-tick other options)

You will now be able to see, via the Get it! link, whether a document is available through the RUG.

Cited by lists the publications that cited this publication and Related articles finds documents similar to the given search result. Both links can lead you to other literature about your topic.

GoogleScholar works best if you use the advanced search option (click on first icon top left)

Link to Google Scholar

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.

Other useful bibliographic databases for American Studies

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.

Elektronic databases RUG


To find out which database is the best one to use for your subject, you can consult the LibGuide for American Studies: