How to Find Journal Articles Using JSTOR: Search Tips and Tricks

September 29, 2016 | Winona

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So you have a research assignment and you have to find academic journal articles on your topic. Or maybe you've already graduated from your studies and you want to keep learning. Or perhaps you just have a hunger for knowledge and need to feed your mind. What should you do?

Image via JSTOR

Get to Know JSTOR

JSTOR ( is a full-text digital archive that contains over 2,000 academic journals. Content comes from more than 900 publishers in more than 50 disciplines spanning hundreds of years. And you can access JSTOR with your Toronto Public Library card, from anywhere in the world, at any time, for free. Yes, free.


Black Books gif via Book Riot

One of the unique things about JSTOR (which stands for Journal STORage) is that it digitizes the full run of journal titles and makes them available from the very first issue up to the most recent two to five years depending on the journal. So when you search JSTOR you are searching across all the major disciplines, for almost all the years of a journal's publication, and in all the text.

All the text!
Image (and meme) originally by Allie Brosh's from her website Hyperbole and a Half - now in book format!

Pretty great, right? Yes! Until you realize that searching all the text of all the articles in all the journals across all those years and in all those disciplines will bring back about a gazillion results.

All the text?

But don't despair. The library is here to help.

JSTOR Search Tips

First, learn the basics of searching JSTOR. The library has a video tutorial for that.

We also have a JSTOR info sheet to view online or download in PDF format.

JSTOR info sheet
Click the image to enlarge it


Next, try a few search tricks.

Phrase Search

  • To find items that include an exact phrase, place it in quotation marks.
    • Example: "to be or not to be"

Boolean Search

  • To find items that include ALL of your search terms, use AND.
    • Example: unicorns AND maidens
  • To find items that include ANY of your search terms, use OR.
    • Example: unicorns AND (maidens OR damsels)
  • To eliminate items that contain a term, use NOT.
    • Example: unicorns AND (maidens OR damsels) NOT myth

Wildcard Search

  • Use a question mark to vary a single letter in a word.
    • Example: wom?n = women, woman, womyn, etc.
  • Use an asterisk to vary letters at the end of a word.
    • Example: bird* = bird, birding, birds, etc.

For a deeper dive into JSTOR search tips and tricks, check out their Core Functionality webpage.

Bonus Tip! Citations

Always remember to cite your source. JSTOR has a built-in citation generator. Search to find the item you want, click the blue “Cite This Item” button in the upper right corner, and JSTOR will do the rest. All you need to do is choose a citation style (APA, MLA, or Chicago) to copy and paste into your document.  


Need Help? Just Ask!

If you get stuck, ask library staff for assistance. Librarians are expert searchers and we are happy to help.

Until then, what are you waiting for? Connect to JSTOR and do your research!


Sherlock gif via destruction-mode.tumblr