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Physics: Journal Articles

Library and Internet resources for physics.
Subjects: Sciences
Tags: physics

How To Find Journal Articles about Physics Topics

The following databases will help you find articles on physics topics. 

  • For faculty, graduate students and physics majors:
    • arXiv.org (physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, and statistics)
      A free repository of technical papers.
    • Inspec (physics, electrical engineering, computer science; 1898+)  
    • Web of Science (multidisciplinary; 1900+ for science topics)

  • Free web search engines (many cover books, patents, and/or technical reports in addition to journal articles):
    • American Physical Society (APS) Search (physics)
      Search all sections of "Physical Review" plus "Physical Review Letters" and "Reviews of Modern Physics"
    • Google Scholar (multidisciplinary)
      Entering via the ASU Library will automatically provide the "Get It @ ASU" link; to activate the "Import to RefWorks feature, click on "Preferences", scroll page down to the bottom and set "Bibliography Manager" to "Show links to import citations into RefWorks".
    • Scirus (science and engineering)
      To activate the "Get It @ ASU" feature, click on "Preferences, and under Library Partner Links, ENABLE Arizona State University Libraries.  Note: "Get It @ ASU" button will only appear on journal articles.
    • Scitation/American Institute of Physics (science and engineering)
      Links to full text will only work while on-campus; if you are searching this site from off-campus, use the Libraries' Journal Title Lookup to ge to the full text of journal articles. 
    • Scitopia (science and engineering)
      The "Get It @ ASU" feature is not available on this search engine; if you are searching this site from off-campus, use the Libraries' Journal Title Lookup to find journal articles. 

If You Already Have a List of Journal Articles You Wish to Find in the ASU Library

If the ASU Library doesn't have the journal article that you need, request the article via our Interlibrary Loan Service.

How to Create an Effective Search in an Article-Indexing Database

  1. Write the topic in one simple sentence or as a simple question.

    Example: How can airplane cockpit design be improved?

  2. Divide the sentence into concepts.

    Concept #1: airplane
    Concept #2: cockpit
    Concept #3: design


  3. For each concept, determine synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations, spelling variations.

    Concept #1: airplane, aeroplane
    Concept #2: cockpit
    Concept #3: design


  4. For each concept, place the keywords within parentheses and separate by "OR".

    Concept #1: (airplane or aeroplane)
    Concept #2: (cockpit)
    Concept #3: (design)


  5. Combine the concepts into one search statement separating the concepts by "AND".

    (airplane or aeroplane) and (cockpit) and (design)

  6. Refine the strategy as new/better terminology is discovered via database searching.

    For example, in the EI Compendex database, the term "aircraft" is used instead of airplane. 

  7. Repeat the search with the new terminology.

    (airplane or aeroplane or aircraft) and (cockpit) and (design)

  8. Refine the search as many times as needed.

Advanced Searching Techniques

  1. Limit the search to two or three concepts.
    • Searches with four or more concepts usually result in very little, or no, results.

    • It's better to do a broad search of one or two concepts that pulls out too many items then it is to start out with a narrow search of three (or more) concepts that pulls out too few. 

      A broad search may be trimmed down by adding another concept if the results are too extensive, however, a narrow search that pulls out just a few good articles can be misleading -- there could be other good articles with just one or two of the, instead of all three.

    • Eliminate unnecessary concepts from the search. 

      If a journal article would still be of interest without one or more concepts in the title, consider removing the concept(s) from the search.  Example: If the topic is "effects of cold temperatures on foundation design" and the title "Temperature Effects on Shallow Foundations" looks promising, then consider that the concepts of "cold" and "design" may be unnecessary in the search. 

  2. Use truncation when necessary to pull out variant forms of keywords. 
    Truncation is also referred to as a "wildcard symbol",  usually " * " or sometimes " ? " or " $ ".   

    EI Compendex refers to truncation as "stemming" and this database has "autostemming"  always turned on --  therefore truncation is generally not needed when searching Compendex.

  3. Consider the OPPOSITE of the topic.
    You may call the concept "safety", but others may call it "accident prevention", "hazards", or "toxicity". Other examples: stability vs. instability or degradation; remediation vs. contamination; regulatory compliance vs. noncompliance or self regulation.

  4. Adapt the search strategy to the terminology preferred by the database.
    Examine the results of the first search in the database and look for terms labeled as:
    • controlled vocabulary,
    • descriptor, or 
    • subject heading

    These terms will be what the database uses to describe the concepts of the article.  Use these terms in your search strategy to improve retrieval.

    For example, if searching for safety issues for skyscraper construction, you'll discover that the EI Compendex database uses the controlled vocabulary term "Tall Buildings" for articles about skyscrapers.   Adjusting the search to "safety and (skyscrapers or tall buildings)" will greatly increase the results.   In the ABI/Inform database, the term "High rise buildings" is preferred, so the search should be adjusted to "safety and (skyscrapers or high rise buildings).

  5. Don't use the NOT operator to eliminate a concept from the search results.
    Injudicious use of the NOT operator will cause many good references to be missed. If the search results contain a lot of junk in addition to desirable articles, try one or more of the following techniques:
    • Use the AND operator to include a concept that will get just desirable articles while eliminating the undesirable

    • Redo the search strategy to exclude the keyword that is retrieving the undesirable articles

    • Instead of using a keyword, use a controlled vocabulary term (or subject heading, or descriptor) and limit that term to that field (controlled vocabulary, subject heading, descriptor).


  6. Use multiple literature databases for searching.
    Each database covers different publications and uses different terminology and indexing that can effect results.

  7. Use the "alert" features of databases and journals to keep up to date on the topic.
    • Compendex will run a saved search strategy each week against the new items added to the database.

    • ABI/Inform will run a saved search strategy against the new items added to the database; you decide the frequency - daily, weekly, monthly or every 3 months.

    • Web of Science will send email notification if a specific article has been recently cited.

    • Most journals, for example, Journal of Applied Mechanics (published by ASME) will send an email alert when a new issue is published so the table of contents can be reviewed.  Some journals also provide an RSS Feed for table of contents and/or news.  

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