For another comparison of popular and scholarly literature, look at this video from the Carnegie Vincent Library.
1. Choose databases that are likely to cover research journals. Academic Search Premier is a good one to start with for almost any topic.
2. Choose a database that covers the broad subject area that your topic fits in. Use the LibGuide Articles (Databases A to Z) to see what the Library can give you access to.
Here are a few examples that illustrate tips 1 and 2:
Business Source Premier is a good place to look for business and economics research, but Regional Business News is not
Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition is a good place to find medical research, but Health Source: Consumer Edition is not
Pro Quest Arts & Humanities Full Text has a very broad scope. It is a good source for scholarly writing in art, drama, literature, and many other related fields.
3. After you do a search, look around the screen for a list of ways to limit the results. Often this will be over in the left-hand column. In most of the EBSCO databases, you'll see this:
To limit your search results to research articles, click the box next to Academic Journals.
These are articles in which the author(s) report the results of research they have conducted. They usually appear in "research" journals. However, keep your eyes open, because research journals also print editorials, letters, and news items that you will not be able to count as research articles in your list of sources.
Some writing assignments require finding a variety of article types from journals, magazines and trade publications. This guide to Finding Articles from Michigan State University offers a quick chart to help with this.