Databases are simply specialized search engines. Instead of searching the web, like Google, the Library’s databases search carefully selected collections of scholarly journals, newspapers, popular magazines, image libraries, and film collections.
Journal articles, unlike encyclopedia articles, are written for more specialized audiences and about more specialized topics. Academic encyclopedias will provide a broad overview and basic facts, while journal articles will often have a more narrow focus. It’s best to start with academic encyclopedias, then move to journal articles.
To access the Library’s databases, click on the “Articles & More” icon on the Library’s home page:
This will take you to an alphabetical list of all of the Library’s databases. Now what?
Choosing a Database
For the Salem Witch Trials topic, consider one of the following databases:
Searching a Database
Databases search a huge amount of content. Just putting in “Salem Witch Trials” won’t be enough. You’ll need to combine that with another search term. Let’s say you’re focusing on the religious causes of the Salem Witch Trials. You would want to search for “Salem Witch Trials” AND Puritans. Or, “Salem Witch Trials” AND religion.
After you search a database, you get back a list of results. What, exactly, are you looking at?
Take a look at the example below, from Academic Search Premier.
#1, highlighted in green, is the title of the article.
#2, highlighted in yellow, are the article’s authors.
#3, highlighted in pink, is the information about the journal – the journal title, the date of publication, and the number of pages and graphics present in the article.
To get the full-text of this article, you’d just click on the “HTML Full Text” or “PDF Full Text” links at the bottom of the citation.
Sometimes in a database, you will see this icon at the bottom of a result citation:
This means that the full-text of this particular article is not available in the database you’re using. The database is telling you that this article exists but that you’ll have to get it somewhere else. If you click on this “Check for Full Text” button, it will search all of the Library’s other online databases to see if we have an online copy of the article. If not, it will direct you to request the article through Interlibrary Loan, a service where we will borrow the article from another library for you. It can take anywhere from 1 – 4 days to get an article through Interlibrary Loan, so plan accordingly if you need to request materials.
If you don’t have much time and only want to see items that are immediately available, you can limit your search to only full text articles to exclude items that aren’t immediately available. This example shows the full text check box in Academic Search Premier. Most of the Library’s databases have a similar search feature.