Skokie Public Library's Guide to...
General Reference Center

General Reference Center (also known as Infotrac) provides users with information found in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and reference books. Most of the entries are available in full text and many include abstracts of the articles.

Information in General Reference Center is updated daily, so many current articles may be found.  Coverage is from 1980 to the present.

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Why Use General Reference Center?

General Reference Center may be used to find information on most areas of interest.  The database is straightforward and easy to use; it is a good place to start your search for periodical articles.  Most current articles are full text.  The following are examples of the types of information that can be found using General Reference Center.

  • Information about a recent news event
  • Evaluations of a product you are considering for purchase
  • Movie or book reviews
  • Travel information
  • Health and fitness information
  • Articles about a celebrity of interest

Searching the Database

General Reference Center provides four methods of searching: subject searching, keyword searching, relevance searching, and advanced searching.

Subject Guide Search

The Subject Guide Search looks for the words you enter in the list of subject headings.  A list of all subjects which include the terms entered will be displayed.  Subjects can then be selected and articles viewed.  The advantage of using the Subject Guide Search is that the article will likely focus on your topic, rather than just contain the words you enter.  This search works best if you enter only one or two words.

Keyword Search

If you are unable to find articles using the subject approach, select the Keyword Search option. This option looks for the words you enter in the title, article abstracts, and the articles.  A list of articles that contain your search terms will be displayed. 

Relevance Search

Relevance Search looks for articles that contain your search words and word variants, and lists the best-matching articles first.  Relevance Search is most effective when two or more search terms are entered.  Each term is analyzed for its frequency of use in each article and the frequency of use within all articles.  Articles are assigned a higher relevancy score when they contain terms more often, or when they contain terms that are found in relatively few other articles.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search option allows you to focus your search on specific parts of magazine articles, such as title, author, summary, subject, keywords, date, or reference source name.

Special Features


Limiting lets you impose specific controls on the search result to produce a smaller result set that is more precisely focused on what you want.  The following are ways you can limit your search:

  • To articles with full text
  • To articles published within a certain date range
  • To articles from particular periodicals
  • By adding one or more words

These limits are available in any type of search: Subject Guide, Keyword, Relevance, or Advanced.


General Reference Center has extensive, in-context Help that may be accessed by clicking the Help link in the blue bar on the left side of the screen.

Handling Results

Articles may be printed, emailed to your account, or downloaded to a disk from General Reference Center.  Articles may be printed as text-only or, in some cases, pictures and graphics from articles may be available.  You may also preview the article and select only those pages you wish to print.

Select the articles you wish to retrieve by clicking the Mark List option in the blue bar on the left side of the screen; when your list is compiled, you may print or email the entire list.  Alternatively, you may print, download, or email articles one at a time.  Open the article by clicking on the title, and use the options to print or email in the blue bar on the left side of the screen.  The "Save As" feature of your browser can be used to download content to a disk.

Please note that if the full text of an article is not available, you will not be able to print or email the full text.  See Obtaining the Full Text of Older Articles for other options.

Obtaining the Full Text of Older Articles

If the article you have found is not available in full text from General Reference Center, it may be available in the periodicals collection of Skokie Public Library, or it may be available from another library.

Microfilm Options

Some entries in General Reference Center include locator numbers to Magazine Collection and Business Collection microfilm cartridges. These numbers usually are in the format Mag Coll: 89C1911.  Write down these numbers if you see them, and ask at the Information Services Desk for assistance in retrieving the article.

Print Options

If these numbers do not appear, write down the name, date, and page number of the magazine in which the article appears.  Then inquire at the Information Services Desk as to the availability of the magazine.  If the article is not available at Skokie Public Library, you may request a copy of the article from another library (as an "interlibrary loan") through one of the librarians at the Information Services Desk.  To place an interlibrary loan request, you must have a Skokie Public Library card.

If you need articles published prior to 1980, ask a librarian to direct you to the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature or other print indexes.

Other Resources

There are numerous other resources that will provide you with up-to-date general information on current events, politics, lifestyle issues, consumer updates, science, and medicine.

  • eLibrary provides easy access to a vast array of general information resources, all in full text.
  • Chicago Tribune via NewsBank contains the full text of articles from the Chicago Tribune newspaper.  Coverage begins in 1985 and continues to the present.
  • CQ Researcher covers current and controversial issues of the day with complete summaries, insight into all sides of an issue, and more.
  • Factiva is an extensive database that includes the full text of articles from thousands of newspapers and business periodicals.
  • ArticleFirst is an index of tables of contents from more than 12,000 journals of science, technology, medicine, social science, business, the humanities, and popular culture.
  • WilsonSelect Plus is an index of more than 1,600 full text journal articles from a variety of popular interest magazines.

In addition, librarians at Skokie Public Library have selected and compiled the most useful databases and web sites for magazine, newspaper, and journal articles.  Please check the Articles from Magazines & Newspapers category of our Research section for more resources.