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A Librarian's Guide to JSTOR

Student-friendly guides to JSTOR

We've created a set of research guides for JSTOR (guides.jstor.org) using Springshare’s LibGuidesv2. The guides are a great starting point for students. They include both subject-specific guides to content on JSTOR, as well as guides to collections such as Books at JSTOR. All of the guides are free and public. and include user-friendly URLs for creating easy links from library and course web pages. Springshare customer libraries have the added benefit of being able to copy full JSTOR guides or sections of guides for reuse within their own LibGuides site.

Searching JSTOR

JSTOR supports full-text keyword searching across all of the content on www.jstor.org. JSTOR generally includes all the content from articles, books, and pamphlets, cover to cover. This makes it possible to search front matter and back matter, letters to the editor, advertisements, and other types of material along with scholarly articles and book chapters. The default setting for search results is to show matches for only content licensed or purchased by the library, but a researcher may choose to change this setting for their own session.

This guide provides quick tips for searching and understanding search results. For more in-depth search documentation, see the "How to Search JSTOR" guide.


There are two search forms on JSTOR.org, a Basic Search (on the main page at www.jstor.org) and an Advanced Search (www.jstor.org/action/showAdvancedSearch).

Using the Basic Search

  • Place words within quotation marks to search for exact phrases (“to be or not to be”).
  • Use Boolean operators to construct a better search (“tea trade” AND china).

Using the Advanced Search

  • Use the drop-down boxes to limit search terms to the title, author, abstract, or caption text.
  • Use the drop-down boxes to combine search terms using the Boolean operators, AND/OR/NOT and NEAR 5/10/25. The NEAR operator looks for the combinations of keywords within 5, 10, or 25 words places of each other. The NEAR operator only works when searching for single keyword combinations. For example, you may search for cat NEAR 5 dog, but not "domesticated cat" NEAR 5 dog.
  • Use the “Narrow by” options to search only articles, include/exclude book reviews, search for content published during a particular time frame, or in a particular language.
  • Focus an article search in specific disciplines and titles using checkboxes. [NOTE: discipline searching is currently only available for searching journal content. Selecting this option will exclude ebooks from the search.]

Search Relevance

Relevance on JSTOR is a combination of many things. Key elements include:

  • More unique terms in the corpus result in higher scores when queries contain those terms. For example, the keyword “epistemology" gets a greater boost than “university” because it is less common.
  • Phrase matches are boosted higher than just keyword matches. A query for "the quick brown fox" will assign higher relevance to a document containing the exact words "the quick brown fox" than a document containing "the brown fox is quick."
  • Publication date -> newer documents can have a slight boost

Search Results

The format and display of search results is the same for Basic and Advanced searches.

  • Use "Content Type" menu to filter results by journal articles, ebook chapters, and pamphlets.
  • Use the "Subject" menu to limit results to journals related to specific subjects.
  • Use the "Publication Date" menu to limit results to a certain publication time period.
  • Use the "Access Level" menu to limit your results by tupe of access.
  • Use the "Sort by" menu to view search results by relevance, oldest items, or newest items. 
  • Use the "Export Selected" menu to choose the export format.

Using content

The “view” page for each item on JSTOR provides many ways to explore the full-text content. These features are available for all types of content on JSTOR:

Evaluating relevance: Items located by searching JSTOR will include an option to view a list of search term occurrences at the top of the article page image. This enables you to jump to the pages to see your search terms in context.

Reading the content: For all articles, ebook chapters, and pamphlets, researchers may choose to read or browse the item online, get pre-formatted citations, or immediately download a PDF copy. 

More searching options: Depending on the format of the items you are viewing, the Basic Search box at the top of the screen enables searching within the journal or journal issue (for articles), book (for book chapters), pamphlet collection (for pamphlets), or running a new search across all content (all formats).

Citations: Citations may be emailed, exported, or copied from the item view page. JSTOR provides pre-formatted citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles for quick copying and pasting. Export options include direct export to RefWorks, RIS format, and text format.

Stable URL: The stable URL listed with the item citation is the best URL to use when linking to content from library and course web pages.


Format-specific features:

Journal articles

  • The “References” tab on an article view page provides the abstract (if one was published with the original item) and list of references from the article. Where possible, JSTOR provides links from the references to other articles on JSTOR or links to CrossRef for cited content.
  • The “Thumbnails” tab enables you to quickly scan all pages in an article.

Ebooks

  • Use the Table of Contents link to move from the book chapter to the table of contents for the entire book, or click on the title link under "From the Book" to do the same. The Table of Contents page contains introductory text snippets for each chapter in the book, as well as  a fast “Download Chapter” (PDF) option for each chapter in the book.
  • The “Thumbnails” tab enables you to quickly scan all pages in a book chapter.

Pamphlets

Pamphlets are formatted in the same ways as journal articles and ebooks, and may be read online or downloaded in PDF format. Be aware that some pamphlets are quite long (50+ pages).

Organizing research with My Lists

My Lists provides the ability to create multiple lists to store and organize citations for items on JSTOR. You can create multiple lists for different topics and projects, for more flexibility with organizing research on JSTOR.

The"Add To My Lists" button​ appears on the search results list and on the individual article, book chapter, and pamphlet pages, and on table of contents pages. Lists are stored within a MyJSTOR account and can be accessed at any time from the MyJSTOR menu. The citing and export options available from the lists are the same options that appear on search results, item view pages, and Tables of Contents pages. Citations can be added, deleted, cited, and exported from a list at any time when you are logged in. 

Look for this Add to My Lists button to get started: My Lists button

JSTOR on mobile devices

​JSTOR’s interface automatically adapts to the screen size of a device without requiring a separate mobile URL or any device configuration. Just go directly to www.jstor.org on a smartphone or tablet, and the screen will adjust accordingly!

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