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Database Search Strategies Module: Databases 101

 

What is a library database?

What is a database? Technically, a database is: 

"A structured set of data help in computer storage and typically accessed or manipulated by means of specialized software." Dictionary, O. E. "database, n.", Oxford University Press. All that is a fancy way of saying that databases are an online collection of information. In Smith Library, our databases hold articles, journals, magazines, ebooks, and more! 

You might be wondering, why not Google? Can't I just Google this information? Watch the short video below to see why Google is not always the best option. 

 

You are probably used to using Google to find information, but did you know there are over 200 different databases you can access through the library website which produce more credible, scholarly, and often full-text sources? We call them library databases

Google Scholar is an example of a library database because it searches a different set of sources from "regular" Google and it links into HPU library-owned resources.

The search box on the library homepage is a database of library-owned books and other items. This is why we call it the library catalog. Simple and broad search terms are best for finding books and eBooks in the library catalog. You can also find some articles there.

Among the library's 220+ other databases are JSTOR, ProQuest Central, EBSCOHost, LexisNexis, etc.

 

Selecting a Database: General or Subject-Specific?

Below the library catalog search box are some of the more popular databases. If you are feeling overwhelmed, a good general place to start is ProQuest Central. This is a traditional library database which includes an enormous collection of scholarly articles, popular news and magazine articles, dissertations, etc. across many disciplines. You will almost certainly find something you can use here, but make sure you know how to search it! 

You can find the complete list of databases linked from the library homepage under "Databases A-Z." Which one you search for a research project will depend on your topic. As shown in the image to the right, you can narrow the databases by entering a subject area, then choose one and try out your topic. 

Whichever database you choose, practicing and memorizing the tips and tricks in this module will help you get the most out of your time spent searchingWhile you can find in-depth tutorials about searching just one database, this module will provide you with search strategies you can use among all library databases.

Don't just enter a keyword and go. First, think of how to build a search that will get you to the content you need. The next page of this module will show you an overview of searching tips.