From citation to article: Find the full text of an article from an article citation

To find journal articles by subject or topic, see How to find journal articles.

What is a citation?

Citations are like the name and address of a journal article. They give you the title of the article and the name of the author(s), and also where the article was published: the name of the journal, and which issue (volume, number, date), and pages -- the information you need to find the article in the library or request a copy from another library. Here is a sample citation (APA style):

Louth, S. M., Hare, R. D., & Linden, W. (1998). Psychopathy and alexithymia in female offenders. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 30 (2), 91-98.  

How to interpret the citation:

  •  Louth, S. M., Hare, R. D., & Linden, W. are the authors of the article.
  • "Psychopathy and alexithymia in female offenders" is the article title.
  • This article was published in volume 30, issue 2 of the journal called Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, on pages 91 to 98.
  • The publication date was 1998.

You will also need the citations for the bibliography of your essay or assignment, so keep a detailed list of all sources you consult. See our guides for information and examples on the different styles, such as APAMLA, and Chicago. If you don't know which style to use, ask your TA or choose one and be consistent throughout your paper.


How do I get a citation?

Your instructor or TA may share a citation and ask you to find the article or book it refers to. Other possibilities:

  • From a bibliography, also known as referencesworks cited or further reading. These are lists of sources the author consulted, and are (almost always)  found at the end of an academic book, chapter or article (even Wikipedia).
    • Tip: Once you have one good resource, the citations in the bibliography will lead you directly to more. 
  • By searching the SFU Library's databases.
    • Not all database searches lead directly to full-text articles -- some will only give you a citation. 
  • The open web, Google Scholar, or other sources.
    • Authors, organisations, and online reference sources (like Wikipedia) may provide full or partial citations. 
    • Tip: If you find an article online that requires payment before you can read it, check to see if you can get free access through a Library subscription by:

Use citations to get arti​cles 

The quick way

From the Library homepage, enter the article title in the Library Search or Library Catalogue search box. Tip: Put the title in quotation marks for better results. 

Advanced techniques, including the "drill down" method

When Library Search doesn't lead directly to full text, try one of these more advanced approaches:

Drilling down by journal title

You can also find journals by looking for the journal title in the Library Catalogue:

  1. Look for your journal in the Library Catalogue's A-Z Journals list, or by searching in the Library Catalogue.
    • Tip: The A-Z Journals list is especially useful for very common titles like "Science." 
  2. Click on a link to get online access to the journal and log in if prompted.
    • Once you have found your journal you may be able to search for your article title within it: look for a link that says "Search within this publication," or similar.
      • Tip: Put the title in quotation marks for better results. 
    • Or "drill down" to find your article by selecting first the date, then the volume, issue, and page number in your citation. 

Using Citation Finder

Citation Finder is especially quick and effective for searching by journal title or DOI.

Articles that are not available online

Not available online? Try one of these strategies:

  • A very few journals are available in print or microform only. Most of these are held on the 6th floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library. For much more information see our guide to Locating journals, magazines, and newspapers
  • If the SFU Library doesn't have a subscription to the journal you need, you may be able to request the article from another library.
  • Most journal articles are available online, but most books aren't. See below for tips to make sure  the citation is for a journal article and not a chapter in a book:

Journal article or book chapter?

To verify that the citation points to a journal article and not a book chapter, read the citation carefully to figure out what your item is (remember that the citation could refer to an article, a book, a book chapter, part of a conference proceedings, etc.).


Coren, S. (1999). Do people look like their dogs? Anthrozoos, 12(2), 111-114.

This citation has a volume number (12) and issue number (2), so the item is a journal article.

The journal title is Anthrozoos.

Watts, A.G. & Swanson, L.W. (2002). Anatomy of motivation. In H. Pashler (Ed.), Advances in the study of behaviour (pp. 563-631). New York, NY, US: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

This citation includes an editor (H. Pashler) and a place of publication (New York), so the item is a book chapter.

The book title is Advances in the study of behaviour.