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Library Tutorial: Library Databases

What is a library database? How is it different from Google?

A library database is a collection of pre-paid articles, ebooks, reports, statistics, images, videos, etc. that you can search by title, author, subject, keyword, and more. Some databases cover many academic fields (ex. Academic OneFile) while others cover only one (ex. Health and Wellness Resource Center). You can easily limit your results to a specific source (like articles), full-text, and scholarly sources. These limiters allow you to find the right results quickly and easily.

A library database is like iTunes: You buy music and add it to iTunes. iTunes organizes it by artist, genre, etc. You can create playlists. Every time you click on a title, the song plays, because iTunes just organizes the music you've already bought.

Google (and other search engines) searches free and payment-required sources using only keywords. You can only limit by date and a few specific sources (like images), so you will have to go through hundreds of thousands of results. This information has not been evaluated, so it could be wrong or biased.

Search engines are like YouTube: Other people create content, and YouTube searches for it with keywords. You can create playlists here, too, but if the person who uploaded the video deletes it, it's gone. Also, with search engines, it might ask you for money before giving you the content.

Why use library databases?

Search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!) are helpful when finding products, entertainment, maps, etc. However, they are not very helpful when doing academic research. Much of the content is not trustworthy enough to use in your academic research papers.

Even Google Scholar... though it contains academic writing, searching for it is very hard! Plus, the results include many articles you have to pay for!

The PSCC Libraries have paid for powerful databases that contain trustworthy content, created by experts. Most of the databases are targeted to students, suggesting related searches or a narrower search, so searching is made easy! Plus, there are great tools to help you get in, get out, and get done like the citation and the email function.

Databases that end in "in Context" (Opposing Viewpoints in ContextResearch in ContextUS History in Context, etc.) recommend trustworthy websites to use in your paper.

Where do I find the databases?

There are several ways to access the databases from the libraries' website.

On the Library Homepage

  1. Go to the library homepage
  2. From the menu along the top, select Find
  3. Select Databases A-Z

Image of library homepage, showing where to access the library databases.

The Databases A-Z page is sorted alphabetically by database name. Here, you can browse by database or use the drop-down menus at the top of the list to browse by Subjects or Database Types (ex. images, videos, or statistics).

Images of Databases A-Z page.

On the Research Guides

  1. Go to the library homepage
  2. Click on the Research Guides icon to see a list of all guides by academic field
  3. Select a field, then subject or course guide
  4. Click on the Articles/Databases tab to see databases relevant to that field

Image showing the location of research guides on the library home page.

How to Search the Databases