The library website lists a bunch of different research databases, but what are they exactly and why should you even bother using them? We know databases can be frustrating sometimes, but this short video will answer these and a couple other questions you may have asked yourself while doing research and provide tips for getting the most out of library resources.
What are library databases?
First off, library databases are subscription-based, searchable collections of articles and other information, usually focused on a specific subject or range of subjects. Some are even super specialized, like the Historical New York Times or Hoovers, which contains company and industry information.
Why are are library databases valuable?
There has to be a reason university's keep spending money on this stuff even though searching Google seems a whole lot easier, right!? There is! Even though it might not feel like it sometimes…you get to better resources faster by using the library. Library databases contain high quality, online information that is not available anywhere else.
Google only searches a portion of the massive amount of information on the web. Many things in the library are literally below the surface--just like the rest of this iceberg! This is called the Deep or Invisible Web.
Why isn't there one search box like Google?
That said, you may have wondered why the library does not at least just have one search box like Google. Well...it’s…complicated. Library resources are part of an ecosystem of vendors and publishers. Indexing makes everything searchable and it is not uniform across the board. Google's indexing is done by fancy web spiders and highly paid programmers, but it's much more decentralized for libraries.
Why do a lot of the databases look different?
Along the same lines, you may have wondered why there are so many different looks among the various databases. This is because each vendor has their own aesthetic. For example...we have over a dozen EBSCO databases, so those are all nearly identical, but there is only one JSTOR. Libraries are in the knowledge business and want to provide you with the best, deepest information possible. This means databases from a variety of vendors, but you will learn they all work really similarly.
Why isn't there full-text of everything when I'm searching?
One of the most frequent questions we get is about full-text. Why isn't *everything* available in full-text? Well..publishers are invited to the party too. Publishers work directly with vendors and negotiate levels of access to their content. This might mean their articles are searchable and available to read online through library databases or only searchable. The library also supplements database content with individual journal subscriptions for important titles.
Why do you bother showing things that are not available?
Students sometimes get frustrated when there is no full-text, but database research is about access and digging deep. They help you search the rest of the iceberg. Searching the most information possible is essential when you are trying to find the most comprehensive body of knowledge on a topic.
To fully flex the library's resources, remember to click 360 Check for Full-Text when there isn't any in the database you are using and this will check our other subscriptions. If we don’t have access there’s always Interlibrary Loan. And when you are on a time crunch, most databases have an option to limit your results to only those available in full-text.
From here, you will be well served by getting to know the best databases for your major or program. If you are not sure what those might be or are struggling to find appropriate resources…contact the library’s reference staff. We will be more than happy to help. Thanks for reading!