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Research and Writing (RaW): Using Databases to Retrieve Information

Guiding you through the process of finding information - from knowing that you need certain locating, evaluating, and effectively using said information.


What's a Database?

A Library Database...

  • Contains organized information about published works
  • Grants you easy access to RELIABLE information
  • Is searchable by various fields, including author, title, publication, date, etc.
  • Has full-text articles
  • Is paid for by the Library
  • Is available 24/7
  • Is better for research than what you'll find on Google
    • Why? The information found in library databases is organized, relevant, and reliable; the information retrieved by Internet search engines are not organized, sometime irrelevant, and can be very unreliable.

-From the Gallaudet University Library

How Do I Get to a Database?

Most libraries subscribe to a set of databases. View the list to the left for a list of the databases offered to UHWO students, faculty, and staff or click here.

How Do I Choose a Database?

Consider the following:

  1. What Subject Area(s) Does It Cover?
    Note what subject areas are covered to ensure that you are using the correct database for your topic. Searching for engineering articles in PsycInfo won't get you far.

    In addition, your choice of database will influence the kind of analysis you're likely to find. Searching for "marijuana legalization" will get very different results depending on the database that you utilize (e.g. focus: psychology vs. business vs. legal).
  2. What Date Range Does it Cover?
    Most databases only cover materials published in the last few decades; there's usually a specific cutoff date. If you're looking for articles or research from before that date, you'll need to use a different database.

    In a few databases, you also need to ask "How recent does it get?" Databases of historical materials usually don't go up to the present. And some databases simply exclude the most recent year or two of all journal articles.
  3. What Types of Material Does It Cover?
    Most databases index scholarly journal articles, but many cover other types of content, either in addition to or instead of. Some common material types include:
  • magazine or newspaper articles

  • books

  • book chapters

  • dissertations

  • conference papers

  • statistical data

  • images, audio, or video

*from the UCLA Library