How to select an appropriate database
The database you select for your search depends on the type of information you need. Some things to consider:
Which disciplines or subjects are covered by the database?
Databases cover broad areas (e.g. health, business, social sciences, art, or history) so you need to ask yourself "who would be interested in or study this topic?". The Articles / Databases page contains a list of databases by subject area which should help you to find one which covers your discipline or subject. Library may not have a database for every specific subject. Many databases cover several disciplines. If you can't find an appropriate database, look at our list of General/Multi-disciplinary Databases for a general periodical index which covers many disciplines (e.g. Academic Search Premier) or ask a Librarian to suggest one.
Remember that the database MAY NOT be full-text. Bibliographic databases which cover your subject will provide citations to excellent resources found only in print.
"Doing research in ..." guides
The library has prepared several online modules to help students who are doing research in various subject areas. These subject guides include sections of recommended databases for that subject area and the special types of information which are unique to that discipline. The guides are available at http://library.webster.edu/training/index.html.
How recent is the subject about which you need information?
Many online databases do not contain information published before the mid-1980's. This is especially true of full-text materials. If you are looking for materials written at the time of an historical event, you may need to use a print index like Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature or the New York Times Index and then look at print or microform copies of the periodicals cited. If you are looking for current materials, some of the Library databases are updated daily.
Format of material
In what format would you expect to find the information?
Current event information is often found in news magazines or newspapers. If you need primary research written by professionals in the field you need to find articles in more specialized journals. This may mean that you need to select a database focused on a specific discipline, for example, PsycInfo for psychology or ERIC for education materials. Databases may include a variety of formats and types of publications. For example:
- EBSCO's Academic Search Premier contains citations and full-text to articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers.
- Gale's Business Insights: Essentials (formerly Business & Company Resource Center) contains company financial and directory data as well as articles about business and management topics.
The database descriptions on the Articles / Databases page, and those supplied by the database itself, should help you determine the formats covered on that database.
The Library contains a number of helpful lists that describe the databases offered. See the Additional Resources section at the end of this tutorial for suggestions. Remember that it is often helpful to try several databases. Each database may index (i.e. cover) different titles or contain different formats.