What is a library database?
A library database is an online resource that the library subscribes to that
contains articles and information from print sources such as magazines,
newspapers, journals, and reference books. There are two different types of
databases that our library subscribes to:
An article database enables you to search through thousands (sometimes millions) of
different magazines, journals and newspapers to find articles on a particular topic.
Some of the articles you will find are Full Text, which means you can read (or print out)
the entire article right there online. Other times the database will only provide you with
an abstract, or summary of the article. Other times, the database will only give you a
citation, which tells you where you can find a print version of the article.
Reference Databases provide reference information (facts, statistics, background
information) from many different print sources. For example, we subscribe to
Encyclopedia Britannica Online, which is an online version of the 29-volume set of print
encyclopedias. Reference Databases are usually more subject-specific than the article
databases, so that each one covers something like Business, Law, or Science &
Technology, to name a few.
Databases are not “internet” sources
Although you access our databases through the internet, the articles you find in them
are taken from published print sources. Most of the things you find in our databases
cannot be found by searching Google or Yahoo. These are subscription services that
the library pays for. They are every bit a part of our library’s collection as the books on
our shelves, and unless you want to buy your own subscription, you must go through
the library’s website to access them.
You must logon to use these databases from off-campus
Because these subscription services are paid for by the library, you can use them from
any Wilmington University computer on our network and you will not have to logon. If
you are trying to access the databases from an off-campus computer (from home, or
work, or Wyoming), you will be prompted to log into Blackboard first. From the Library
homepage, select the link for Electronic Databases
(http://www.wilmu.edu/library/accessoffcampus.aspx ) to be presented with an
alphabetical list of databases to which the Library subscribes. Select the database you
want use, and you will then be prompted to log into Blackboard with your username and
Wilmington University Library Databases
Databases come in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right one for your topic is the
first step in using them. For instance, you’re not going to find very much information on
hybrid cars if you’re searching a nursing database. So consider your topic first and then
select a database relevant to searching on that topic.
Wilmington University Multidisciplinary Databases
Multidisciplinary databases are usually more general and cover a wide range of topics.
Database Name Subjects Covered
Master File Premier general academic, arts & humanities, social sciences, science and
Premier general academic, general interest, medicine, education, literature
WorldCAT Catalog of library catalogs from around the world
National Newspapers Full-text of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, L.A.
Times, and Christian Science Monitor
Some of the Wilmington University Reference & Subject-Specific
Database Name Subjects Covered
CQ Researcher law, current events, politics, controversial issues
Access Science electronic version of the McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and
Business Source Complete business database providing full text for more than 2,300 journals
Encyclopedia Britannica general reference
Yearbook comprehensive guide to over 2,000 contemporary testing instruments.
CINAHL Comprehensive source of full text for nursing & allied health journals.
Computers & Applied
covers the spectrum of the applied sciences, including traditional
engineering challenges and the business and social implications of
Criminal Justice Periodicals
provides research support for criminal justice, law enforcement,
corrections administration, drug enforcement, rehabilitation, family
law, and industrial security.
covers areas of curriculum instruction as well as administration,
policy, funding, and related social issues.
The Educational Resource Information Center, contains more than
2,200 digests along with references for additional information and
citations and abstracts from over 1,000 educational and educationrelated journals.
PsycInfo & PsycBooks scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books, and dissertations, all
in psychology and related disciplines, dating as far back as the 1800s.
Opposing Viewpoints pros and cons on a wide variety of controversial social issues
Sage Journals Online
Sage Journals Online provides access to approximately 460 PeerReviewed Full-Text Journals published by Sage covering the
disciplines of Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, Science,
Technology, and Medicine.
SocIndex comprehensive social science research database with hundreds of
Which database would you use to answer the following questions?
What are the latest nursing techniques for a stroke?
What are some arguments for and against legalized gambling?
How have laws on inter-racial marriage evolved?
How many people live in Bangladesh?
General Database Search Tips & Strategies
Each database is different, so it may take you a while to get acquainted with a new one.
There are some general tips and strategies you can use whenever you search a
database. Later in the lesson, you will see examples of many of these strategies in our
ï‚· Don’t type an entire sentence into the search box. Think of the most important
two or three words that deal with your topic. Remember, the more words you
use, the fewer hits you will get, and vice-versa.
ï‚· Be flexible with your search terms. Think of synonyms, related words, and
broader and narrower terms. Think of all the words other people might use to talk
about your topic.
ï‚· Be careful with spelling. Computers do exactly what you tell them to do, so if you
spell a word wrong, it doesn’t know it. It’s looking for exactly what you typed.
ï‚· Pay attention to which search field you are searching. Where is the database
looking for your search terms? In a subject heading? In the title of the article? In
the full-text of the article? These will all bring up different results.
ï‚· Most databases use a controlled vocabulary with official subject headings.
This means that they’ve organized all the articles into topics with subdivisions,
narrower, broader, and related terms. You can use these subject headings to get
ideas and guide your search. This will enable you to get articles that are about
your topic, rather than the ones that just mention it.
ï‚· On the other hand, sometimes it’s necessary to use a keyword search to find
your search terms anywhere in the article. Keyword searches should be used in
o When the thing you’re searching for is so rare (or new) that there are no
official subject headings for it (yet.)
o When you’re looking for a very specific phrase. For example, there might
be tons of articles that list diet as a subject, but you’re only looking for
things that mention South Beach Diet. This might be too specific to have
its own subject heading.
o Some types of articles (such as newspapers) aren’t indexed at all, so they
simply don’t have a controlled vocabulary. In these cases, keyword
searching may be your only option.
One technique that librarians and researchers use is to identify subjects
headings listed for an article to get more ideas. For example, let’s say you’re
looking for articles on low-carb diets. You did a keyword search on
carbohydrates and brought up 5000 articles that mention them. The first few
articles aren’t really about your topic, but the fourth title is exactly what you’re
looking for. You look at the official subject headings for that article and one of
them is High Protein Diet– Evaluation. You never would have thought of the
phrase “high protein diet evaluation” on your own, but now you know the
language (controlled vocabulary) that this database is speaking. You can use
this knowledge to conduct a subject search to find similar articles.
There are many ways to expand or limit your search. (Expanding means you’ll
get more articles, and limiting means you’ll get fewer articles.) Often,
databases will let you limit your search to scholarly journals, to full-text
articles, or to certain dates. You can also combine different search terms to
get different results. This is called a Boolean search,
Boolean operators are words such as and, or, and not that you use to combine search
terms. The operator you use will either broaden or narrow the results of your search.
Operator Use Example
AND limits your search cats AND dogs
cats AND dogs AND
OR expands your search cats OR dogs
cats OR dogs OR birds
NOT excludes specific
terms cats NOT dogs
An AND search says, find me articles that contain both of my search terms. Searches
for cats AND dogs will retrieve articles that contain both the word “cats” and the word
“dogs.” If an article only contains the word “cats” but not the word “dogs”, that article will
not be retrieved.
You can combine as many search terms as
you like, but it will limit your results even
further. A search for cats AND dogs AND
birds will only bring up articles that mention
An OR search says, “find me anything that mentions either this term or that term.”
Searches for cats OR dogs will retrieve all the articles that contain the word “cats”, the
word “dogs”, or both. You can also add more search terms into the mix, with the
understanding that this will further expand your search.
As you can see, using the Boolean operator OR will expand your search. This is useful
if you are not finding many articles using the operator AND. However, if you are
retrieving hundreds of articles you may want to refine your search and try using the
operator AND for a more focused search.
A NOT search says, “find me anything that mentions this term but not that one.”
Searches for cats NOT dogs will retrieve all the articles that contain the word “cats”,
but excludes from that list anything that uses the word “dogs.” You have to be very
careful when using this operator, as it will severely restrict your results and you may
miss something important. An example of when to use NOT might be when you’re
looking for articles about spam (the lunch meat) and you keep getting things about
SPAM (the junk e-mail.) You could do a search like, spam NOT email.
A Complex Boolean Example
Boolean searches can get quite detailed by using parentheses to separate phrases.
Letâ€™s say the topic is: How does pollution legislation affect whales and dolphins?
We could phrase our search: (whales OR dolphins) AND pollution AND (legislation
This will bring up articles that contain:
1. Either the word “whales” or the word “dolphins”
2. The word “pollution”
3. Either the word â€œlegislation” or the word “law”
(whales OR dolphins) AND pollution AND (legislation OR law)
Most (but not all) databases will assume that you want to use the operator “and”.
This means if you type “whales dolphins pollution legislation law”, the database will
assume you mean “whales AND dolphins AND pollution AND legislation AND law”.
Unless all of these words are present in an article, the search will not retrieve any
articles. In a case like this, the more terms that are entered the less results will be
Searching Ebscohostâ€™s Academic Search Premier
Academic Search Premier is a good general place to look for articles on a wide range
of topics, from business to social sciences to science and technology. Its biggest
advantage is that it has thousands of citations as well as thousands of full-text articles.
In addition, you can quickly jump to other Ebscohost databases or combine searches
across different databases.
Above you will see the interface for all Ebscohost databases which includes:
ï‚· three search boxes,
ï‚· option to select different search fields,
ï‚· and â€œlimitâ€ options including â€œFull Textâ€, Scholarly (or Peer Reviewed) Journals,
and a date range.
Now letâ€™s do a search in this database on â€œmultiracialâ€ marriage. Enter the term
â€œmultiracialâ€ in one search box and â€œmarriageâ€ in another. Your search results in 39
You can see the citation, suggested subject headings for narrowing your
search and, in some cases, a link to the â€œFull Textâ€ (electronic version of
The Difference Between HTML Full Text and PDF
Some databases will give you the option of reading an article in HTML (or just Full
Text) or reading it as a PDF file. A PDF file is an image replica of the article exactly as it
appeared in the original source. (In order to read a PDF file, you must have Adobe
Acrobat Reader installed on your computer.)
The suggested subjects includes â€œinterracialâ€ marriage, which, when clicked, leads to
other, perhaps more relevant, citations. See next page.
Iâ€™ll open the record for item #2 by clicking on the title of the article.
Here you can obtain further information including an â€œabstractâ€, which summarizes what
the article is about. Click on the link for â€œFull Textâ€ to view the document.
How to Find Periodicals (or specific articles)
We’ve already talked about how to find articles on your topic. But what do you do if you
have a citation for an article and you want to know if it is available full-text in another
database or available in print through the Wilmington University Library? To find out if
your desired article is available electronically in another database, you can use our
â€œLibrary Journal Locatorâ€ database to help you find these things.
Let’s say you were searching Academic Search Premier and found a citation for an
article that you’d really like to read, but it only gave you the abstract and doesn’t have
the full-text available. Don’t despair! The article that you want is titled, “Improving
Mathematics Teaching” and it’s from the February 2004 issue of Educational
Leadership. By using the â€œLibrary Journal Locatorâ€, you can search to find out whether
itâ€™s available in on the library databases.
The results show that this title is available electronically in several databases. Click on
one of these to locate your desired issue.
ï‚· What is a library database?
ï‚· Why is a library database not an “internet” source ?
ï‚· List some Library databases you would use to:
o find general academic journal articles?
o find current newspaper articles?
o find biographical information?
o find background information on a scientist’s work?
ï‚· What is the advantage of using a (controlled vocabulary) subject search?
ï‚· In what cases would you use a keyword search?
ï‚· What do AND, OR, and NOT do to your search results? (Limit, expand, etc.)
ï‚· What do Full-text, abstract, and citation mean in terms of library databases?
ï‚· What is a PDF file?
ï‚· What do you use the Library journal Locator for?