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Library Databases

This tutorial introduces you to the library’s databases. This includes how to access them and a few search hints to get you started.


First Question: What is a Database?

The library's electronic databases are like huge file cabinets full of information.

Use them to locate all of our electronic materials. This includes articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers.

The databases are the BEST place to search for articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers.

The databases also have e-books, reference e-book articles, and e-reports, as well as movies, news clips, and radio podcasts.

IMPORTANT: Databases are different than websites on the internet. Websites you use are free. Databases cost money because they contain published material (i.e. journals, magazines, newspapers, ebooks, etc.)

And since they contain published material, they are generally safer to use in an academic paper.

The library has many databases, and they are not all the same. Keep in mind 2 things:

  1. Different databases have different TYPES OF SOURCES. Some include journals, magazines, newspapers, and books, while others have only books.
  2. Databases can cover different SUBJECT AREAS. Some cover ALL (or almost all) subjects, while others are more specialized (e.g. literary criticism, health, international cultures, current controversial issues, etc.)

For best results, make sure you choose the right database. If you're not sure which database to use, ask a librarian; they can help you.

Accessing the Library Databases

To access the library's databases, go to the library's website and click the Find Articles (Databases) link. Use your mouse to click "Find Articles (Databases)" link on the far left.

You'll be taken to a page with a list of subjects. We have our databases organized by subject to help you select the right ones to search.

The first subject area listed is "General or Miscellaneous Topics.” It contains large databases that cover almost any subject well (it’s a great place to start).

If you click on the "General or Miscellaneous Topics" link, you'll see our databases listed. Each one has a description under its link. Read each database description to make sure the content will meet your needs (i.e. if you’re looking for journal articles, make sure the description mentions journals).

Common Database Features and Searching Hints

We have lots of different databases, but most have the same basic features. We'll look at one of our databases to show you a few of those features.

Let's take a look at one of our most popular databases: Click on the "Gale Power Search" database (the first one listed).

The Gale Power Search basic search page will open. You’ll start out with a search box and choose either a keyword or subject search (sound familiar?).

Yes, it's similar to the catalog, but there are a few big differences.

Tip 1: Instead of searching only the information in the book record (like you do in the catalog), a keyword search in a database, usually searches some of the article text as well. This means your keywords can be more specific -- think about what words should appear in a good article (and then type those into the box).

Tip 2: Since articles are usually about a very specific subject (unlike books which are about a broad topic), your results are going to be a lot more specific. For instance, a book might be about "Global Warming," but a journal article should be much more specific, like "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Efforts of Chinese State Oil Companies and the Impacts on Their Financial Performance."

Tip 3: There are a lot more articles in the databases. We have about 50,000 books in the library, whereas there are about 60 million articles in the Gale Power Search database alone. This again means that when searching the databases, you can be a lot more specific with your searches (as opposed to the catalog). Just remember if you're having trouble finding something, ask a librarian (we are here to help).

One more caution: Remember that computers always give you exactly what you ask for, so try to avoid bias in your search term selection. If you ask for articles on "liberal media bias," that is what you’re going to get. You might not see the articles arguing that the media is fair and objective. Make sure you’re not missing important information in your research by choosing biased terms.

Ok, now we’re ready to do a search. Before starting your search, always make sure the "Full Text" box, underneath the search box, is checked. This ensures that your search returns ENTIRE articles, not just the citation information.

Let's search "texting and driving."

NOTE: Gale Power Search automatically dumps you into the "Magazine" results, but there are more results on the left under "Content Types." In our search, we see "Magazines," but we also see "Academic Journals," "Books," "News," "Images," "Videos," etc. If you click "Academic Journals," your results will switch to show results that are from academic journals rather than magazines.

The first article in our results list under academic journals is "Study: Distracted Driving Bans Depend on Enforcement." To read the entire article, look for the "full-text" link, underneath the article and click it. You should then see the entire article, as well as the citation information you'll need for your Works Cited page (if you're writing a paper).

Over on the right, in the "Tools" box, there are several buttons including "Print" and "Email" buttons.  Use these two buttons to save the article for later reading. (P.S. - Don’t use Download button!)

P.S.S.- Other databases may look different, but they usually have a "Print" and "Email" button somewhere … look for it!

This is the end of this tutorial.

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