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Guides & Tutorial, Pao-yue Kong Library, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong

How to Search for Journal Articles: Home

Serials Collection in PolyU Library

PolyU Library provides access to a sizeable serials collection, both in print and electronic formats. The collection include:

  • Popular Magazines: covered short articles written by journalists, staff or freelance writers on current events, news, opinions and topics of general interests.
  • Professional or Trade Journals: usually written by staff writers or specialists of a particular business, industry or organization to update interested parties on the latest industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news.
  • Scholarly Journals: mostly authored by professors, researchers and students that focus on frontier research projects, theories, and methodologies. Most scholarly publications are peer-reviewed which means that their articles have gone through a critique and approval processes by the subject experts before publication. To know whether a journal is peer-reviewed, refer to the tips at Check whether the journal is peer-reviewed.

Search Tips

Boolean Operators (AND, OR and NOT)

  • AND combines search terms so that each result contains all of the terms. AND narrows your search.
    e.g.: youth AND drug finds articles that contain both youth and drug.

  • OR combines search terms so that each result contains at least one of the terms. OR is often used to connect synonyms or similar concepts. OR broadens your search.
    e.g.: youth OR teenager finds articles that contain either youth or teenager or both.

  • NOT excludes terms so that each result does not contain the term that follows it. OR narrows your search.
    e.g.: drug NOT alcohol finds articles that contain drug but exclude alcohol.

Search Order of Boolean Operators

NOT AND > OR (in most databases, including OneSearch); Use parentheses () if you need to override the order. 

 youth OR teenager AND drug finds articles that contain either youth (only), or teenager and drug (both words are present);
(youth OR teenager) AND drug finds articles that contain either youth and drug (both words are present) or teenager and drug (both words are present).

Truncations & Wildcards

  • Truncations (*) and wildcards (?, #) are used to broaden your search.
  • e.g.:
    comput* searches computer, computers, computing
    colo?r searches color, colour
  • ​Truncation and wildcard symbols may vary by database. Check the Help page in the database to learn the symbols and operators that database supports. (or, google database name + "operator" to locate the search help page directly)

Exact Phrase searching with quotation marks ""

  • Quotation marks "" are used to search an exact phrase. They narrow down your search results.
  • e.g.:
    "knowledge sharing" searches only the phrase knowledge sharing and will NOT search knowledge creation and sharing (additional words in between) or knowledge shared
  • Usually quotation marks cannot be used with truncation or wildcards. e.g.: "knowledge shar*"
Use truncations or wildcards when you need more results; use quotation marks when you need less and more precise results.
An example to give you an expression of the number of results retrieved when using different symbols. (in OneSearch, as of 2 Aug 2017)

Keyword searching vs. Subject Heading searching

  • Keywords are natural language words or phrases that describe the search topic. Keyword searching looks for the keyword terms in any field of the record (if not specified) in a database.
  • Subject headings are a group of "controlled vocabularies" that describe the content of each item in a database. These controlled vocabularies are usually given by subject specialists or indexers. Subject heading searching looks for the subject heading terms in the subject heading field of the record in a database.
    The field name may vary by database or platform. e.g.: in OneSearch, it's called "Subject"; in EBSCOhost, it's called "Subject Terms".
  • Subject headings are extensively used for searching biomedical literature. Medline uses MeSH, which stands for Medical Subject Headings. Embase uses Emtree. Both MeSH and Emtree allow using subheadings to narrow to one aspect of the subject.


  • Subject heading searching helps you find articles by "meaning".
    e.g.: search "knowledge management" by Subject returns results that may not contain the phrase "knowledge management" but discuss organizational learning (which is a related subject to knowledge management).
  • Some databases can recommend subject headings when you do a keyword searching. After that you may select appropriate subject headings to search again.
    e.g.: EBSCOhost uses "Suggest Subject Terms"; Medline (via Ovid) uses "Map Terms to Subject Heading".
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Find Articles

 Step 1. Visit Library homepage, click on "OneSearch", or directly visit OneSearch.

 Step 2. Type in your keywords and hit the search button (magnifier icon). When you start typing, OneSearch will automatically suggest popular searches for you. In this example, we picked up "solar cells materials".

 Step 3. Limit results to "Articles" under Reference Type on the right panel of the page.

 Step 4. You may further refine results to "Peer-reviewed Journals", or within a publication year range. Click on "Full text available" to see full-text download options under "View It". Remember to sign in with your NetID and NetPassword to get access to the full-text.

A database is usually a selective collection of journals, or books, or both. It allows users to search in journals and books at article or book chapter level. Many databases will focus on a specific subject area - helping users narrow down the focus of your search, e.g.  IEEE Xplore (in electrical engineering), and Medline (in biomedical science). Some databases are multidisciplinary - letting users be able to search across disciplines, e.g. Scopus and Web of Science.

Step 1. Visit Library homepage, switch to "Databases" and then search the database by name, or browse databases by subject. 

 Step 2. In this example, we search for "Scopus", a large multidisciplinary database that collects over 23,000 journals. 

Note that some databases can only be accessed on campus (those marked with "#"); some databases are limited to PolyU current students and staff only ("P" and "P#").

 Step 3. Click on Online Access button to go into the database. You will find this green button in all database page.

 Step 4. Like Scopus, many databases allow searching by article title, author, keywords, source title (journal title), etc. Pick up a proper field and start a search.

 Step 5. Most databases provide a user-friendly interface that allows you to refine search results by Year, Author, Subject Area, Document tyle, etc. or sort results by Relevance, Date of publication, Citation counts, etc. These all help you quickly locate the articles you want. 

To download the full-text PDF, click on "PolyU eLinks" button. This will link you to the options where full-text can be downloaded.

We search articles by citation information only when there is a citation given.

 Step 1. Visit Library homepage, click on "OneSearch", or directly visit OneSearch.

  Step 2. Click on "Fetch Item" to find an item by its given citation information. For articles, it will be more accurate to locate by Article Title or DOI (Digital Object Identifier, a unique ID for a journal article). If this information is not available, try Journal Title plus Volume, Issue and Page numbers.

Full text not available? Try ILL.

Request a copy by filling up a form via our InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service. Alternatively, you may follow the steps below to place a request while you are searching.

 Step 1. When you got "No results found" after the search, the first thing to do is to check "Expand Results beyond PolyU Library". This may help you get at least a record of the article you are looking for. 

 Step 2. Click on the article record, then sign in with your NetID and NetPassword. After sign-in, click on "InterLibrary Loan" option.

 Step 3. Click on "Logon to ILLiad". 

 Step 4. The details of this article have been pre-filled automatically. Click "Submit Request" to place the request. Normally you will receive an email notification to download the copy within a couple of days.

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