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WAMS Research Guide: Databases

Tutorials and links to help you navigate the research process successfully.

What is a Database?


Definition: A Database is a collection of articles, from many different sources, that are brought together online and can be searched all at once from a single search box.  Users must pay a subscription price to access most databases, and can rely on the database articles being trustworthy and credible information.

Some databases are large, some are small, some are all on a single main subject, such as history, and some cover MANY different subjects.  Some databases are historical documents, like newspapers, and some contain current issues of sources like magazines, journals or newspapers.  Some databases contain video or audio content, and some contain primary sources such as diaries, transcripts of interviews, etc.

Databases are a FANTASTIC source of information for any research topic.  It's important that you become familiar with how to effectively search databases so you don't miss out on a great information resource.


Databases - What,Why and How?


Watch the video clips:

  •    What is a Database?
  •     Differences Between Databases and Web Sites

to learn about the characteristics of online databases.


Databases contain information on any topic you could possibly research so they are good resources for any research assignment, big or small.  The information is edited and proofed before being entered into the database so it is reliable which saves you the time and headache of evaluating the information before using it.  Database articles come from many original sources, including magazines, newspapers, journals, reference sources, interviews, podcasts, primary sources etc., which provides you with different perspectives and approaches to the information, as well as very current or historical information.  



Watch the video clips:

  • Database Features - basic features of a database
  • Database Features New - Subject Search and Virtual Folders - more advanced features

and read the box below on database types and features

to learn how to use the features of  databases to effectively search and find the information you need.

Watch the video clip:

  •    Database Keyword Strategies

to learn how to come up with good keywords to use to search for information in a database.

Choosing Databases for Your Research

Choosing the appropriate databases for your research topic is a skill that can make your research more efficient and take less time (A GOOD THING!)


There are 2 main kinds of article databases, based on the type of articles they contain. 



1. Reference article databases:(A GREAT place to start)

Reference articles are useful when you are beginning your research and don't know a lot about your topic.  They provide a topic overview and background.  They are valuable in helping you begin to understand your topic, relationships between your topic and other areas, and in refining your research keywords.


Our general reference article databases include:

Cavendish Square Digital
EBSCO databases*

Facts on File databases
InfoTrac Student Edition*
SIRS Discoverer*
World Book (Kids, Student, Advanced)
Gale Virtual Reference Library (our reference eBooks)

*these databases are Multi-Content databases which also contain reference articles



 2. Multi-Content article databases (contain Magazine, Newspaper, Journal, and Reference      articles):

 Multi-Content article databases are usually very large databases and contain different types  of articles - from magazines, newspapers, journals and/or reference sources.  These  databases are a good initial source to search if you look at the reference articles they contain, or once you have some background on your topic.  It's important to identify the TYPE of the article you find and use as the article type is needed for your citations.

Our Multi-Content article databases include:

EBSCO databases*
InfoTrac Student Edition*
Research in Context
Science in Context
SIRS Discoverer

*these databases are Multi-Content databases which contain reference articles

Database Searching and Features

Database Searching:

Database searching can be challenging.  Each database has a different search screen, and there are so many types of articles and subjects in multi-content databases.  Finding that great, useful article can be tricky.  Make sure you have followed the tips on choosing appropriate databases and good keywords above!

Database Features:

 Reviewing the videos to the right: Database Features - Review and Database Features - New - Subject Search and Virtual Folders,  and then using the database features described below can make your database searching SO MUCH easier and quicker!  Databases are a great resource for good, reliable information - use these features to get to just the right articles for your needs!

1. Full-text:  Using this feature removes any results that are just summaries/abstracts of the article and not the full article.  For middle school, we really want the full articles.


2. Sort by: Sorting your results list REORDERS the list in different ways.

  • Sort by Date ( Descending or Ascending) can reorder your list to put the most recent articles on top or the oldest articles on top.
  • Sort by Relevance puts the articles most closely related to your keywords at the top of the list.  These articles should be the most relevant or useful to you.


3. Limit by (Content) Type: This feature limits your results to a specific type of article, such as magazine or newspaper or journal or reference.  It is EXTREMELY useful in helping you identify the type of your article so you can fill in the citation information correctly for Name of Source and  Type of Source fields on your notesheet and in NoodleTools.  Also, magazine articles tend to be longer and more in depth than newspaper articles, and journal articles are more detailed and targeted to people involved in that particular field.  Knowing this and the type of article can help reduce the amount of searching you need to do.


4. Narrow by Subject: Every article in a database has subject "tags" associated with it.  Most databases will display those subjects at the top of the article.  This feature limits your results to articles on a particular subject that you select.  This is a great feature for reducing your results list A LOT, and getting to articles that are primarily on your topic and so would tend to be very useful.


5. Virtual Folders: This feature helps you organize the articles you find as you are searching.  You can "store" the articles you want to go back and save/email/read later into your "virtual folder."  Once you are done searching that particular database, you can go to your virtual folder and review your stored articles.  From the virtual folder you can delete any articles you no longer want, or email/save all the articles at one time.  It's a great organizational tool!  Note: Once you leave the database, your virtual folder is emptied.


6. Subject Search: This feature is useful if you are not exactly sure about keywords for your topic or are unfamiliar with the content of the database.  You can type in a subject into the Subject Search feature and get back a list of all related subjects for articles in the database.  By selecting one of these related subjects, you can then see a results list of all articles on that particular subject.  

Useful Resources

 Username/passwords are needed to access these databases FROM HOMEYou can find the username/passwords:

1. on any printed Database Pathfinder or Media Center info pamphet (ask at Circ Desk) 

2. in your student assignment pad.

Articles from these databases can be:

1. printed out

2. saved on your personal drive (My Documents) or flash drive

3. imported into Google Drive

4. Emailed to a personal (working!) email address.

What is a Database?

Differences Between Databases and Web Sites

Database Keyword Strategies

Database Features - Review

Database Features New - Subject Search and Virtual Folders