Frequently Asked Questions - Journals, Newspapers, Magazines

Here are 3 possible fixes:

1. If you are using Adobe Reader as your PDF reader, this may be due to a feature in Adobe called "allow fast web view". If so, you may get an error such as "insufficient data for an image". Try the following fix:

  • open the Adobe Reader application
  • Control-K, or go to Edit > Preferences
  • on the left, click 'Internet' and then uncheck 'Allow fast web view'

2. Before opening the PDF, right-click the PDF link and choose "save target as", “save link as” or “download linked file as” (depending on your browser). This will force the PDF to save before opening. Then open the PDF from the saved location. This bypasses the browser and the browser’s PDF plug-in, and avoids problems associated with plug-ins.

3. If neither of the above solutions works, try using a different PDF reader, e.g.

  • Windows: Foxit Reader
  • Mac OS: Preview (go to Finder > Applications >

If none of these solutions work, please report the problem to us, and we will work with you to fix it.


How can I find articles in the Hamilton Spectator or in Canadian newspapers using LexisNexis?

Go to LexisNexis

  • start at the Library home page 
  • click on the Articles/Databases tab
  • type "lexisnexis academic" into the search box beside "Database Name" 
  • on the resulting page, click the "LexisNexis Academic" link

To find articles in the Hamilton Spectator:

  • click the "Find" option next to Source Directory (top right) 
  • in the "Keyword" search box, type "hamilton spectator" and click "Find Sources"
  • on the results page, under "Select sources below to search", tick the box beside "The Hamilton Spectator" and click "OK - Continue"
  • Note: coverage for the Hamilton Spectator in LexisNexis is from October 07, 1991 through current

To find articles in Canadian newspapers:

  • click the "Browse" option next to Source Directory (top of page)  
    • for #1, pick "Publication Type"
    • for #2, "Filter by: Country"; from the dropdown choose "Canada
    • for #3, click "News" and choose "Newspapers"
  • put a tick mark beside any or all newspapers that you want to search and click "OK - Continue"

Constructing a search

  • on the search screen, type the words or phrases you want to find:
    • each search box (whether it be on the main page, or on any of the search forms in the Search By Subject or Topic menu) defaults to a Natural Language search; type a question, a sentence, or a few descriptive terms in the search form to initiate this type of search; for example: water pollution 

    • if Boolean connectors (e.g., AND, OR, AND NOT, etc.) are used to combine words and phrases in a search box, then a Boolean Search will be performed; also, if a search is refined using any of the Advanced Options options (e.g., by date, a segment/field, etc.), then the search will be run as Boolean; for example: pollution AND (water OR ocean OR lake)

  • use the wildcard symbols ! and * to catch word variations: 
    •  the exclamation point ! replaces more than one letter at the end of a search term; for example: bank! will find banks, banking, bankrupt, bankruptcy, etc.
    • the asterisk * replaces one letter and can be used more than once in a word; it can be used anywhere EXCEPT as the first letter of a word; for example: organi*ation will find organization, organisation
  • use quotation marks for an exact phrase, for example: "master chef"

Limiting a search

  • use the Advanced Options
  • specify a date or date range if desired
  • select a segment (e.g. headline, geographic region, etc.) to search within a section, if desired
  • on the results screen:
    • sorting by "Relevance" should bring the most relevant articles to the top
    • "Search within results" (top right) can be used to narrow your results to include more words
    • "Result Groups" (on the left) can narrow your results by subject, geography, language, etc.

How do I use to find out if an article or journal is academic / scholarly or peer-reviewed / refereed?

  • go to our Ulrichsweb page, and click on the title to connect
  • at Ulrichsweb type the publication title into the text box and click Search
  • find your publication title in the resulting list, and click its title to see the details
  • if your title is academic/scholarly, the Basic Description section will include a line that says: "Content Type: Academic/Scholarly"
  • if your title is peer-reviewed/refereed, the description will include a line that says: "Refereed: Yes".
  • a referee shirt icon will also display in the Basic Description and in the search results list, if the title is peer-reviewed


What is a scholarly, or academic, journal?

Articles in "scholarly" journals, also known as "academic" journals, are distinguished from those in mass-media magazines (Maclean's, Chatelaine, Newsweek) by the following characteristics:

  • they report on or review original research, experimentation, or in-depth analysis
  • their authors are scholars (researchers, experts) in a particular field of study, and are identified as such
  • they are formal in writing style and format, aimed at a specialized, academic audience and use specialized language
  • articles tend to be lengthy and usually consist of a number of distinct sections such as: abstract (a short summary of the article); introduction and statement of the problem; literature review; methodology; data collection; analysis; conclusions and recommendations for further research
  • sources are cited with footnotes or a bibliography at the end of the article
  • they contain little, if any advertising
  • Examples: American Sociological Review; Brain and Cognition; British Journal of Aesthetics
  • to verify whether a journal is scholarly you can also look up the journal in

Most, though not all scholarly journals are peer reviewed.


How can I tell if a journal is peer reviewed?

There are 3 major ways to find out if a particular journal is peer reviewed (refereed):

  • If you're searching for articles in certain interfaces (Scholars Portal, EBSCO), you can limit your search to peer-reviewed sources simply by selecting a tab or checking a box on the search screen.
  • If you're looking at the journal itself, look at the editorial statement or instructions to authors (usually in the first few pages of the journal or at the end) for references to the peer-review process.
  • Another way is to look up the journal in (AKA Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory) to find out whether the journal is peer reviewed. If Ulrichsweb says the journal is "refereed", it's peer reviewed.
  • Tip: an easy way to look up a journal in Ulrichsweb is to click the Get it! button for the article, and at the bottom of the Get it! window, click "More Options" then click "Learn more about this journal". You will go to Ulrich's automatically and see the info for the journal, including if it's peer-reviewed (refereed) or not.


What does "peer reviewed" or "refereed" mean?

Peer review is the process used by publishers and editors of academic / scholarly journals to ensure that the articles they publish meet the accepted standards of their discipline. Manuscripts being considered for publication are sent to  independent experts in the same field (the author's scholarly or scientific peers). They evaluate the quality of the scholarship, reliability of findings, relevance to the field, appropriateness for the journal, etc. Most, but not all scholarly journals are peer reviewed. 

See also: How can I tell if a journal is peer reviewed or refereed?



The Catalogue says we are still receiving this journal, but I cannot find any volumes from the last few years. What should I do?

Always make sure which library has the volumes you are looking for. For instance, Innis keeps only current 5 years or current year of selected business related journals and Mills keeps the older volumes of these titles.

The Catalogue says we have this title from 1945 on, but I can only find it from 1966 on. Where are the pre-1966 journals?

The 1966 date is a clue that this is a title found in Mills. Mills Periodicals on the 3rd floor are located in different places according to date. Pre-1966 volumes are shelved in compact shelving. 1966- volumes are shelved in regular Periodical stacks.

Where is the microfilm / microfiche?

  • Mills: 3rd floor. Heavily used newspaper titles in microfilm are in microfilm cabinets at the east end of the 3rd floor. All other titles are shelved in call number order in compact shelving. Microfiche is kept in the cabinets in the southeast corner of the floor opposite the compact shelving units.
  • Innis: No microfilm. For microfiche, turn left at entrance and go to the last cabinet against the wall.
  • Thode: shelved on Lower Level
  • Health Sciences: Location noted in the Library Catalogue

Where are the newspapers?

  • Mills: currently received newspapers are located in the newspaper reading room, 3rd floor. Back issues of heavily-used microfilm are shelved in title order in the black microfilm cabinets at the east end of the 3rd floor. All other microfilm for newspapers and periodicals is housed in the compact shelving units at the east end of the 3rd floor. Check this guide for more info.
  • Innis: newspapers are located at the end of the periodicals stacks. Check this guide for a list of the newspapers held in print at Innis.
  • Thode: no newspapers
  • Health Sciences: no newspapers

What does it cost to make a photocopy?

Check this page for more info.

How do I get a copy from microfilm and microfiche?

Check this page for more info.

Can periodicals or newspapers be borrowed?

Thode has selected titles which can be borrowed. In all other libraries they are non-circulating (for use in the library only).

How are the journals arranged?

  • Mills: by call number (on the 3rd floor)
  • Innis: by call number
  • Thode: alphabetical by title/range number
  • Health Sciences: alphabetical by title

How can I get an article if we don't own the title or the volume?

  • Request a copy of the article through Interlibrary Loan.
  • Check another library -- use this list to find other library catalogues.

The article I want is missing from the journal. What should I do?

Take the volume to the Research Help Desk for assistance. If the Research Help Desk is closed, take it to the Circulation Desk.

The journal volume/issue I need is not on the shelf. What do I do?


  • the holdings in the Library Catalogue to make sure that the library owns that volume. Also check if it is available electronically.
  • the photocopy rooms
  • the reshelving area
  • again another time. It may have been taken to another floor and it will take time to be picked up and returned to the Periodicals area.
  • with Research Help desk staff to see if it is out for binding

If you still can't find the volume/issue, complete an Unable to Locate form (this form is from within the Libraries).

Is there a printed list of the periodicals and newspapers available in the library? Where do I find a list of all the periodicals in my subject area held by the library?

We don't maintain a printed list, but you can find lists of periodicals by subject area 2 ways:

1. to find both print and online journals, use the Library Catalogue:

  • go to the Browse tab
  • on the left under Format, click "Journals, Magazines, Newspapers"
  • from the Narrow by Call Number list at the top of the screen, select an academic discipline or subject area


  • from the Basic Search tab, do a keyword search, e.g. "sociology", "theology", "chemistry" etc.
  • on the left under Format, click "Journals, Magazines, Newspapers"

2. for online journals (e-journals), see this FAQ: How can I see what online journals we have in my academic discipline?

If you need help, ask us!


What are holdings?

"Holdings" tell you:

  • where you can find the journal or magazine
  • whether we have the issue(s) you need

For more information, check the Find Journals & Magazines guide.

How do I find out what issues we have for a particular journal or magazine?

The Find Journals & Magazines Guide should get you started. If you still need help, ask us!

What is a microcard?

It is a micro-opaque card used for storage of miniaturized text.

What is a microfiche?

It is a card-shaped piece of photographic film used for storage of miniaturized text.

What is a microfilm?

  • a continuous roll of photographic film containing miniaturized images of text
  • back runs of some newspapers and journals are converted to microfilm to save space
  • can be viewed on a microfilm reader

What is a newspaper?

  • printed on newsprint and issued daily or weekly
  • contains news, editorials, commentary, advertising, general interest items
  • Examples: Hamilton Spectator; New York Times; Globe & Mail

What is a news magazine?

  • illustrated, often with glossy pages
  • articles written by editorial staff, staff writers, freelancers and scholars
  • aimed at educated readers with no special knowledge assumed
  • provides information - sometimes cite sources
  • Examples: Chronicle of Higher Education; Psychology Today; Time

What is a trade/professional publication?

  • aimed at a specific audience, often in business and industry
  • deals with current news, issues and trends
  • uses specialized language
  • usually issued on a weekly or monthly basis

What is an electronic journal (e-Journal)?

  • a publication made available in a computerized format and distributed on the Internet
  • may be published simultaneously with a paper edition
  • McMaster faculty, staff and students have access to several thousand titles
  • available through the e-Journal tab or the Library Catalogue 


What is a serial?

  • the Health Sciences Library uses "serials" as a location for its journals and magazines
  • includes annuals and yearbooks as well as books which are part of a larger series
  • parts issued chronologically
  • Examples: Annual Review of Anthropology; Canadian Politics

What is a magazine? ((news/popular/general interest)

  • popular publication geared to a general, non-academic audience
  • usually covers a wide range of topics
  • paper is usually glossy with pictures and advertising
  • usually do not contain bibliographies and are not refereed
  • Examples: India Today; Sports Illustrated; Paris Match


What is a periodical?

  • common types include journals, magazines (popular, news and trade) and newspapers
  • issued on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.)
  • issued more than once a year


How do I access journals located in the Hamilton Health Library Network?

If you are a McMaster student, staff or faculty member:

  • to get a copy of an article in a journal held by one of the Hamilton Health Library Network libraries, you may request the article through RACER (you can find more info on RACER and Interlibrary Loan on this page).

If you're not a McMaster student, staff or faculty member:

  • Usually the collections at the hospital libraries (e.g. Joseph Brant) are not available except to hospital personnel.
  • One option would be to travel to a library that owns the journal. You can find out which Ontario libraries own a journal by searching for the journal in RACER (you can login with guest access).
  • Before actually going to one of these libraries, however, it's advisable to double-check that they actually own the issue you require, and will allow outside users to access it. You can check individual library catalogues through links on this page.
  • If you don't want to travel to another library to obtain the article, you may inquire at your local public library to see if they will obtain the journal article for you through their Interlibrary Loan department.


How can I find electronic journals by title?

Please follow the instructions on this page.

How can I find electronic journals by subject?

  • start at the e-Journals tab on the library home page
  • click the link "Find e-Journals by subject"
  • you may be asked to log in using your MAC ID
  • on the resulting search page you can either type a journal title in the "Title" search box, or click on the "Subject" tab to browse by subject
  • on the resulting screen, under the name of any journal you want, click on the "Get It!" button
  • all the providers of the online subscription will be listed, with the years of coverage for each


How do I Email a JSTOR article?

Ensure that the word "stable" is part of the URL; if it isn't, click on the article title or the "Item Information" link. Copy the URL provided, then it paste into the body of your email.