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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding Journal Articles for Theatre Research

This guide is an introduction (or a refresher) to searching for, accessing, and evaluating articles for theatre research.

Where to Start?

If you are new to research at the library or want a reminder about how to develop a search strategy, read through the rest of this page. If you are just looking for some advanced tips to improve your searching, jump ahead to How to Search and Using Databases.

The University of Illinois subscribes to over a thousand different databases that can help you access the content you need. It can be overwhelming to know how to start searching, so here are a few quick tips:

  • First, it helps to know what you're searching. Here's some terminology to keep in mind:
    • Databases are searchable collections of published sources. They can be interdisciplinary or subject-specific.
    • Journals are scholarly publications that include articles written by experts in the field. 
    • Articles are individual pieces on a specific topic published in a journal. 
    • Indexes are lists of articles or other publications within a particular discipline or topic. Some indexes will include article abstracts and some will include full text access.
    • Abstracts are concise summaries of articles that can help you determine whether an article is relevant to your research. 
  • If you are looking for a specific journal, you can search by the journal name in Library Catalog Journal Search.
  • If you are looking for a specific article, you can use the Journal and Article Locator to find the full text.
  • If you are just starting out and you want advice on structuring your search, check out our next section on How to Search!

Developing a Search Strategy

Before you start, you'll want to plan out a search strategy. Think about the research question you're trying to answer and brainstorm a list of possible keywords.

  • What terms best describe the information you're looking for?
  • What kinds of sources do you need?

Taking time to articulate exactly what kind of information you need before you start looking will help you retrieve more focused, relevant results. To walk through the process of developing a search strategy, check out the example below!

Infographic explaining the process of developing a search strategy with examples.

As you apply these strategies to your own topics, try to brainstorm as many possible synonyms and related ideas for your search terms as possible. If you aren't getting good results with the first keywords you try, consider other ways of expressing the main ideas in your topic. If you are still struggling, you can always reach out to a librarian for help!