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Core Functionality

Starting to search from scratch

Lauren Trimble

JSTOR has over 2,000 journals in more than 50 disciplines, spanning from the 1600's to now. That's not even counting books and pamphlets. So. Where do you start when you want to look for something? Especially if you're not 100% sure what you're looking for? 

Before you go down any farther down the search hole, we encourage you to TALK TO YOUR REFERENCE LIBRARIAN. If you've never done high-level research, or are unsure about how to best construct a search query, the librarian(s) at your university are there to help. If you aren't a student, try your public library. The average librarian spent years getting a degree to help you and people like you. They are, in a very literal sense, there for you.  We're a little perplexed if you can talk to a librarian and just, well, decide to wing it. 

That doesn't mean we can't help you with JSTOR specific stuff. Let's orientate ourselves with the search options on the JSTOR site.  

Option One: Basic Search

When you visit you'll likely see basic search first. It's the box in the middle of the landing page with the phrase "Journals, primary sources and now BOOKS" written above it. You can put in phrases, keywords, authors or titles without any special formatting. This will give you a broader list of results that will, at least, allow you to peruse some options. If you're a more advanced searcher, you can put Boolean commands directly into the search bar. It's important to note that there is a 200 character limit (this includes spaces).  


Option Two: Advanced Search

You can get to advanced search from the JSTOR landing page by clicking on the 'advanced search' link beneath basic search. You can also hover over the search option in the upper left hand corner of the screen (it's the option to the right of "JSTOR Home"). 

Once you're on the advanced search page, you can limit your search by: 

  • author
  • article/book/pamphlet/review title
  • searching ONLY abstracts
  • key words within full-text (a.k.a all the content ever)
  • type of content (articles, books, pamphlets, reviews, everything else)
  • date range
  • language
  • ISBN
  • discipline or journal
  • searching ONLY the content that your school/library subscribes to

Please note that you will not be able to search without text in the first two fields. If you only chose a journal to narrow your search, for example, you will get an error that says, "We could not complete your search because nothing has been entered in the search form. Please try again."

It is also worth noting that the character limit on advanced search is 250 characters (including spaces).