After completing this module, you will be able to:
You will apply and learn about information literacy competencies while completing this learning module.
What are Library Databases?
Library databases are a collection of online resources purchased to aid students in conducting research. The resources include streaming videos, newspaper articles, magazine articles, electronic books and book chapters, academic journal articles, and literary criticism. Miami Dade College Libraries subscribe to many different databases. Each database offers different content, so you'll want to choose the database that is most useful for your research question.
Library databases are very expensive products, but enrolled students have access to them. Because the databases contain expensive, published content, students must login to use them in accordance with the licensing agreements between the college and the database vendors.
Benefits of Using Library Databases
There are many great things about library databases. The top three are:
Miami Dade College subscribes to more than 100 databases that cover a variety of topics to complement the courses taught here. Not all libraries subscribe to the same content. Here's a quick video from Yavapai College Library in Arizona.
“What Are Databases and Why You Need Them”, student created video posted by Yavapai College Library
Databases at Miami Dade College
Take advantage of tools such as:
Searching the Databases
Watch this brief video on using keywords and subject terms when searching library databases.
Keywords and Subject Terms by Scribner Library, Skidmore College
(2:10, Standard YouTube License)
Both! A good search strategy is to begin with a keyword search. When you find a source which appears to be right on the mark, consider doing another search using the subject heading(s) assigned to that source. Here are some key differences between keyword searching and subject searching.
Keywords are natural language words describing your topic. This is a good way to begin searching for information on your topic.
Subject terms are controlled vocabulary words determined by the database being searched. These terms are assigned to describe the content of each item in the database.
Keyword searching is more flexible, allowing you to combine terms in many ways.
Subject searching is less flexible because you must know the controlled vocabulary term or phrase in order to search.
The database searches for keywords in every part of the record (title, author name, subject headings, etc.).
The database searches for subject terms only in the subject heading or descriptor fields.
Keyword searching can easily yield too many or too few search results.
If a subject search yields too many results, you can often select a more specific subheading to further narrow your search.
Search results often include many irrelevant results.
Search results are usually very relevant to the topic being searched.
Most databases provide an advanced search feature. The advanced search usually contains pull-down menus that allow you to search specific categories. Those categories are typically: subject headings, author, date, journal title, and article title. Depending on the database, additional search fields might be available.
By applying limiters, you can narrow your search results to exclude sources which do not meet the criteria you have chosen. Popular limiters are:
Depending on which database you are using, the advanced search feature may look slightly different. See the video below to learn how to use the advanced search features.
“EBSCOhost Advanced Searching - Tutorial” by EBSCO Help
(2:12, Standard YouTube License)
In EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete:
Limiters: Below the advanced search are all the different limiters. You can limit the date range, the type of material (news, periodical, journal, etc.), the language, the document type and much more.
Boolean operators are used to connect your keywords to either broaden or narrow your search. It is a good practice to place one keyword on each line in a database and connect them with AND or OR.
AND is the default in most databases. AND works to narrow your search. If I search for "obesity" alone I will get many results. If I search for "obesity" on the first line connected by AND to "childhood" on the second line, I should be eliminating all search results which discuss obesity without mentioning the childhood, thus narrowing my search.
Connecting words with OR has the opposite effect. OR is good for use with synonyms. I want search results about childhood obesity, but there are several ways to discuss children. I could search for "child" OR "juvenile", for example. The results for this search will include all results about child and juvenile and about both.
Boolean Operators: Pirates vs. Ninjas
(2:57, Creative Commons License)
Google Scholar and Databases
Google Scholar is a Google search dedicated to academic articles, book reviews, case law and patents. You can date range it, control what you find and it cites the articles.
You can link Google Scholar on your home computer or laptop to the Miami Dade College databases!
This can be an amazing tool for finding the right database for your research!
Follow the steps below...then try a search and see if you can work from Google backwards into a database article. The links to the right of your search results are either linked to Miami Dade College databases or links to "free online" academic articles.
Are you saying to yourself, "I wish I'd known this for years!"
Additionally, check out the Google Scholar Help page for an overview of Google Scholar, how to search, access articles, receive email alerts, set up your library or libraries, export citations, and much more.
Database Tips and Tricks
There are several tricks you can use to make searching the databases easier.
Most databases offer tools to help you save your research. In many cases these tools will be located on the right side of the article record screen.
Two of the most popular are email and citation.
You can email to any email address, not just your school account. You can also send to multiple email addresses...just separate by a semicolon (;).
This is a great way to make sure everyone in your group has the same article.
Add a subject to the subject line so when you see it in your email you'll know where it belongs.
Finally, select the appropriate citation format. Most databases offer the big three: APA, MLA, and Chicago.
You can save just the citation as well. Scroll down to your preferred style and copy and paste it into your research document.
Make sure all your formatting is done properly.
Sometimes the database gets the hiccups and everything will be in all CAPS. Don't do that. Make sure it's upper and lower case.
In this module, you have learned how to: