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 Choosing an Article Database

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Number of posts : 1850
Age : 55
Registration date : 2008-03-08

PostSubject: Choosing an Article Database   Sun 13 Apr - 19:25

Choosing the right article database can be tricky. Selecting the right one depends on several factors:

The subject area of your topic
The type of sources you need (magazines, journals, newspapers, books, etc.)
How much you already know about the topic
Dates of publication of the information you need
What is the subject of your topic?

In order to find a database that will have information about your topic, you should analyze your topic to decide what subject area is most likely to cover your topic.

If your topic is broad, you will probably want to focus your topic so that you retrieve the most relevant information.
Determine what subject areas those writing about your topic are likely to come from. For example, are they doctors or other health professionals, educators, or business people?
need to narrow your focus to be able determine what subject area(s) to choose. To do so it often helps to think about who would be likely to read and write about your topic. What occupations, disciplines, or subjects do they come from?
The Undergraduate Library's Find Articles Guide provides a good starting point for selecting databases. On this page you will note some basic, general databases that are good for beginning research on almost any topic. A much more comprehensive selection of databases for a topic is available through the Article Indexes and Abstracts page of the Online Research Resources.

Once you have determined which subject area is appropriate for your topic, look at the category of databases available on the Undergraduate Library's Find Articles page. Read the database descriptions to determine which databases are appropriate for you subject area or topic.

What kind of sources do you need?
Many times professors and instructors put restrictions on the types of sources you can use for their assignments. They may require that you use only scholarly articles or limit the number of popular articles that you are able to use. General interest or newspaper databases tend to index more popular magazines than scholarly journals. For scholarly journal articles, you will need to search a discipline-based database or a subject-specific database.

For more information on scholarly vs. popular sources, see the Distinguishing Periodical Types: Is it a magazine or a journal? page.

What is your level of knowledge about your topic?
If you are exploring a topic in a field that is new to you, the first step is to locate journal articles that present the topic in easy-to-understand language. Databases such as Academic Search Premier and Expanded Academic ASAP are particularly good at providing a broad array of topics in an equally broad array of sources. You are likely to find some articles about your topic written in easy-to-understand language in one of these databases.

Usually articles in subject-specific databases assume that users will have some background knowledge of the subject, and the articles often contain specialized language that researchers in that field use (jargon). Unless you have some familiarity with your topic and the terminology associated with it, you may find articles in subject-specific databases more challenging to read and understand. Articles in discipline-based databases will usually have less jargon, and those found in general interest databases will normally use common terms.

What are the dates of the information you need?
Many databases contain information dating back only to the early 1980s; therefore, if you are searching for articles that were written before that time, an electronic database may not be appropriate. For example, if you want to find articles about the Vietnam War that were written at the time of the war, you will need to search a print index. Many electronic databases have a print index counterpart that covers the needed time period.

Dates of coverage for a particular database may be included on an entry page to a database. If this information isn't immediately evident, clicking on a database's help option with usually provide the dates of coverage for you.
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