Michigan State University

WRA 101: Writing as Inquiry

Resources for First Year Writing students enrolled in WRA 101

Article Searching Flowchart

Start with the Library Article Search

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Try a general article database

These databases contain scholarly, trade and popular articles from many academic disciplines.


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Still can't find what you need?

Try a specialized article database related to your subject, especially of you are looking for scholarly or trade articles. Common subjects are listed below.


Tips for Searching

1. Put phrases in quotes

If you are searching for a phrase, such as spontaneous combustion or greater rice weevil, put the entire phrase in double quotes. This will tell the search engine to only find results that contain the exact phrase, rather than one or two of the individual words.


  • "spontaneous combustion" rather than spontaneous combustion
  • "greater rice weevil" rather than greater rice weevil

2. Use AND to narrow your search

If you have two or more words or concepts that you want to find, use AND (must be capitalized) to tell the search engine to only look for items that contain both words.


  • wheat AND allergen
  • "carbon emissions" AND farming

3. Use OR to expand your search

Often, there is more than one way to talk about your topic. For example, if you are looking at the study habits of college students, you could look for "study strategies," "study habits," "ways of studying," "study methods" etc. Some phrases might be better than others. If you want to try looking for multiple variations of the same word or phrase in a single search, use OR (all capitals) to tell the search engine to find material with any of the words you've included.


  • phone OR smartphone OR telephone
  • "study habit" OR "study strategy"

You can even get fancy and use both AND and OR:

  • "college students" AND ("study habit" OR "study strategy")

Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?

Popular, Scholarly and Trade Comparison

  Popular Scholarly Trade
  • Mostly journalists
  • Scholars in an academic or professional field (i.e. doctors, lawyers, educators)
  • Staff writers, industry specialists, and contributing authors
Intended Audience


  • General public
  • Scholars or professionals in a particular discipline, field of study, or trade (psychology, medicine, law, etc.)
  • Practitioners and professionals in a specific industry, trade, or organization
  • General interest
  • Popular culture
  • General news
  • Entertainment
  • Original research (such as scientific experiments, surveys and research studies)
  • Critical analysis of topics relative to the profession
  • Charts, diagrams, and/or tables showing data or experiment results are often included
  • Industry related news, trends, techniques, product reviews, statistical data, upcoming events, and more
Level of Language
  • "Everyday" vocabulary/terms
  • Meant to be easily understood by all audiences
  • Specialized vocabulary
  • Terms and concepts specific to a particular discipline or field of study
  • Use vocabulary relevant to an industry, trade or organization
References or Bibliography of Sources
  • Very rarely are any sources listed
  • A list of references or sources is provided at the end of each article
  • Some, but not all, articles contain a list of sources
Review Policy
  • Articles are reviewed by the magazine's editor or editorial staff
  • An editorial board, composed of experts in the field, reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted
  • Also known as "refereed," "peer-reviewed," "professional," or "academic"
  • Articles are reviewed by the publication’s general editorial staff
  • Almost always and in high quantities
  • Occasionally, but highly specialized and specific to scholarly discipline (i.e. specific laboratory equipment, medical tools and drugs)
  • Advertising almost always present
  • Ads relate to relevant industry, trade, or organization
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • People
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Stone Soup
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Journal of American Studies
  • College Composition and Communication
  • Journal of Business Administration
  • Annual Review of Plant Biology
  • Nature
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Advertising Age
  • American Libraries
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • American Nurse
  • PC Week

Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?

Learn the difference between three major types of articles. Get tips for using each type.

Direct link to "Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?" on MSU Mediaspace

Video credit: Emilia Marcyk