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HI 324: Medieval Culture

What Is a Research Database?

What Is a Research Database?

A research database is a searchable online resource that provides access to content from newspapers, magazines, professional journals, and other media sources. Typically college students use databases to find content (usually journal articles) for use in their research papers and projects. Databases may include full-text content, partial full-text content, or simply publication information (with or without summarizing abstracts).

Most research databases are proprietary, meaning that they are only accessible because the library has a paid subscription to them. The databases listed at the right are all proprietary. See the A-Z Databases page for a complete list of the library's databases.

Finding Full Text Articles

What if Full Text Isn't Available?

Sometimes a database includes information about a journal article but does not include the full-text article itself. In such cases you have two options for retrieving that article:

1. Click on the  image included in the record.

2. If that option isn't available, click on the interlibrary loan request link instead. It looks like this:

On the resulting screen enter your personal information into the form. The article's publication information should automatically appear in the form.

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Searching for Journal Articles




Where Are Journal Articles Located?

Journal articles can be found by searching in the library's online research databases. A selected list of databases is included below (next box down). A full list of the library's research databases can be found here. (To reach this list from the library's homepage, click on the "Find..." link in the left-hand column and then, on the page that appears, click on the purple box marked "Databases.")


Database Search Tips

Use Boolean Operators to Combine Keywords

The process of searching for journal articles is oftentimes made more successful by combining keywords with the uppercase terms AND, OR, and NOT (a.k.a. Boolean operators). Doing this creates a search formula that better enables the database to zero in on exactly what you're searching for.

  • AND -- tells the database you want articles that include both keywords.
  • OR -- tells the database you want articles that include any of the keywords.
  • NOT -- tells the database you want articles about the first keyword but not about the second keyword.

Be advised that you always need to include these Boolean operators in uppercase. If you don't, the database will simply ignore the words.


a) I need journal articles about both elephants and extinction.

Search formula     elephants AND extinction


b) I need journal articles about either veganism or vegetarianism.

Search formula     veganism OR vegetarianism


c) I need journal articles about poisonings but not about lead.

Search formula     poisonings NOT lead


Use Quotation Marks for Keyword Phrases

If your search term is a phrase rather than a single word, it's always best to enclose the phrase in quotation marks. This ensures that the database knows you want to search using the phrase as a phrase rather than searching for each word of the phrase as a separate search term.

So, for example, if you use the search phrase baseball bats without using quotation marks, the database will look for articles about baseball bats (the object), but it may also look for articles about baseball (the sport) and bats (the animal). Enclosing the search phrase within quotation marks essentially instructs the database to search exclusively for baseball bats (the object).


Use an Asterisk to Truncate Keywords

In some instances it may be helpful to use truncation in order to instruct the database to find as many variations of a keyword as possible. Truncation involves placing an asterisk (*) immediately after the shortened form of a keyword.

So, for example, rather than using the keyword vegan you use veg* instead. Doing this lets the database know you want to search not only for vegan but also for vegetarian and vegetarianismLikewise, using polinstructs the database to search not only for politicians but also for political and for politics.

Truncation can have unexpected results, though. The database doesn't know, for instance, that your intent in using pol* is to only find articles relating to politics. So it searches for any word beginning with pol, including polar and poland and police and pollution. This is why it's oftentimes best to use a truncated keyword in combination with one or more additional keywords.


Use Sophisticated Search Formulas

You can combine the foregoing methods to produce sophisticated search formulas that have the potential for making your database searching as successful as possible.


a) I need journal articles about public housing and racism.

Search formula     "public housing" AND racism


b) I need journal articles about nutrition and children under age ten.

Search formula     nutrition AND children NOT teenagers


c) I need journal articles about human rights as it relates to war in Asia but not including the Korean War.

Search formula     "human rights" AND war AND asia NOT kor*

Research Databases