Let's take a look at how you can use the Libraries' web site to find articles.

You can just type a topic into the default search box on the library's homepage, but if you're mainly interested in articles from journals, magazines or newspapers, it's quicker and better to switch to the Articles tab. The Articles tab specifically searches a database called Summon. Summon is what we call a general research database because it covers any topic that you can think of. The library also has access to more discipline-specific databases and you might want to use one of those if you are doing more exhaustive research or if you would like to find more than what seems available through Summon. But Summon is always a good starting point, so for now, let's just see how far we can get with it.

Let's say I'm writing a paper on the science of fingerprint identification. I'm going to enter my search term, "fingerprint identification," into the search bar. Summon brings up a big set of results. This list includes over 49,000 results that contain the phrase "fingerprint identification." That's a lot! In the list you can see basic author and title information. But if I only need a handful of really good articles, how do I pick just a few of these? We can use some of the tools in Summon to help narrow this results list.

To start, let's make sure that we're only looking at results that will have the kind of information that I want. In this case, I'm only interested in peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. In the upper left corner of your screen, Summon gives you a check box to limit your results to articles only from "scholarly peer-reviewed publications." Once I click that check box, Summon updates my results list and throws out anything that's not an article from a scholarly journal.

Looking closer at the results, I can also see that some of these articles really aren't about the science of fingerprints. A lot of them are. But this one is about the use of fingerprints as a registration system. This article is about "ultrasounds." It's not really what I'm after. Summon has searched for the words "fingerprint identification" which can be used in these multiple contexts. Because the word "fingerprint" has other meanings besides what I'm after, I'm getting these irrelevant results that I really don't want. To help focus the list, I can use the subject terms listed on the left-hand side.

The Subject Terms list shows key terms representing what the 49,000 articles in my set of results are about. The most common subjects represented by all these articles are visible right away, but I can see all of the subject terms available by clicking "more..." I can pick out one or a few that match exactly what I'm looking for. Some are really general, such "research" or "studies" so I'm not going to worry about those. I'd rather find one that's more specific to what I want. Let me scroll down. Here's a good one: "forensic sciences." I'm going to include that by checking the box in the "Include" column. If I saw something that I specifically wanted to exclude, I could also choose it from the "Exclude" column. Now I'm going to click "continue" and see what happens.

Using the Subject Terms check boxes has significantly narrowed my results. Now I'm down to just over 400 results, and they're all related to forensic science fingerprint identification. That's a lot better than the initial list of 49,000!

I'm also going to use this date range tool on the left side to limit to anything published since 2007. I can type in specific years or use this slider to drag to 2007 and click "update."

Now I have a good, relevant list of results and I can begin to scan through these for particularly interesting articles.