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How to Use the Library Databases

This library research guide provides an introduction to using the library databases.

Database Top Tips

1. Use the Boolean operators, explained in the chart below, with your search terms or keywords.

  • While typing a full or partial sentence into Google or another Internet search engine will usually bring back closely matched results, most databases will not return good results.
  • For example, if you were searching for "the health effects of social media on children and teenagers," you will get better results by searching "health effects" AND "social media" AND (children OR teenagers OR adolescents) than by entering the entire phrase.

2. Many databases are searchable by subject.

  • Look for links such as "Apply equivalent subjects" or "Look up subjects" or "Subject guide search." Some databases also have online thesauri to browse subjects that correlate with your topic.

3. Don't limit yourself to one database- try another, or try a database with wider subject coverage.

  • The same search in one database may yield very different results than another database.

4. Use general or interdisciplinary databases, as these often have the widest range of subject coverage.

5. Don't give up!

  • Chat with a librarian if you're having any trouble. We can assist you in finding the information you're looking for, help you save time, show you the best search strategies, and recommend other sources.

Selecting Scholarly/Academic/Peer-Reviewed Articles

Finding Research Articles

Look for the following:

  • An Abstract is at the beginning of the article. This is a summary of the researchers/authors' study methods, arguments, conclusions, and more.
  • Author(s) - Scholarly articles often have two or more authors. The authors' credentials, affiliations, and other information is usually listed on first page of the article, under the title or sometimes on the last page of article.
  • Headings/Sections in the article include:
    • Introduction -- Usually one paragraph, sometimes more, describing the subject of the article
    • Methodology --  Provides information about how data was collected, what data was gathered, and who participated in the study
    • Discussion/Results -- Offers information about the results of the study and what was learned
    • Conclusion -- Summarizes the findings of the research/study and any recommendations or limitations of the study
    • References/Bibliography -- Detailed list of references used in the research is generally found at the end of the article
  • Technical/Specialized Language - Scholarly articles are generally written in formal, technical language.
  • Charts, Graphs, Diagrams, etc. - Scholarly articles are often communicating results of studies and research and so will include charts, graphs, diagrams, and other visual aids.
  • Length - Scholarly articles are usually relatively long; often they are four pages or more.