Databases are the primary way of finding journal articles. Databases consist of indexes which list information about the articles such as author, title, journal information, and subject(s). Sometimes abstracts, or summaries, are included. Some databases also have the full text of the articles, in which case you can also search for keywords in the text. When the full text of an article is not available in the database, use the journal finder to find full text, search the library catalog for the journal, or request the article through Interlibrary Loan. A list of Chemistry journals available through the library is available through the journal finder.
Peer-reviewed, refereed, or scholarly journals have articles that have been reviewed by experts in the field. Not all articles in peer-reviewed journals are reviewed, however. Some may be news, opinion, or short reports. Many databases are either all peer-reviewed journals or have a check box to limit a search to just peer-reviewed journals (not articles).
How do you choose search words? Here are a few ideas for searching in the sciences:
Search for concepts in any keyword search. In general, avoid searching for concepts in the Full Text of an article (stick to titles, abstracts, or keywords). Concepts represented by multiple words can be searched as phrases in many databases by using quotes: "global warming". Be sure to use additional related words and phrases: "global warming", "climate change", "carbon dioxide levels", "greenhouse gas". Search these as separate searches or using the Boolean OR if available: "global warming OR climate change". Connect separate concepts with Boolean AND to restrict your search to articles with both concepts: "global warming AND carbon offsets". Be sure to check for additional Subject Terms and Descriptors in the best results. Use those terms for further searches.
Searching for Latin (Genus species) names is the most accurate way of finding information about a particular animal or plant. Scholarly articles are also more likely to use full species names than are news articles. Searching for just the Genus name will get information on related species. If possible, use a search that covers the Abstract, not just the article title.
When searching for a particular location, you may have to search for both local and regional names (Pelham Bay, Long Island Sound, New York coast, etc.) If possible, searching the Full Text of an article for location names can be useful, as particular locations may not be mentioned in the article title or abstract.
These databases cover many topics, but have selected full text from a variety of environment related journals, books, and reports. PhD dissertations and Masters theses are usually great sources for research topic ideas, literature reviews, and methods.