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Using Databases for Your Research

Comprehensive overviews of how to search in popular databases provided by UD. Especially useful for anyone relying on these platforms for long-term research projects.

What is a "subject database" and how will it help with my research?

  • A library database is typically defined as a source of information that can be searched online through simple or complex queries. Subject databases are a type of database, and they differ from other types of databases--such as the library's catalog or our discovery layer--in that subject databases typically focus on a specific academic field or topic area. For example, the MLA International Bibliography database searches across a curated set of e-journals and e-books in the fields of literature, languages, folklore, and linguistics. If you know you want to research a topic in any of these fields, then it is to your advantage to run your search in this database. For nearly every field, UD Libraries offers one or more subject-specific databases.
  • Advantages of using subject databases: Unlike broad search engines such as Google Scholar or UDiscover, subject databases help reduce the number of search results that are not relevant to your topic--something which occurs because subject databases search across a much smaller set of resources. Perhaps more importantly, because subject-specific databases typically retrieve fewer search results, they make it easier to understand what's been published on your topic over time, which in turn allows you to identify the individual results that are most relevant for your project (as opposed to relying on search results that are the most convenient and determined by a search algorithm). These results almost always indicate whether or not an article is "scholarly," something which is important when you need to locate peer-reviewed articles for your research or assignment.
  • Subject databases and full-text content: Some databases will store and index full-text content, whereas others will index the citations and abstracts of articles. This second category without full-text content is still highly applicable for conducting research, and their search results will typically provide direct links to the full-text of a specific journal article or e-book (or they will provide a link to request the item through our free interlibrary loan service available to all UD faculty, staff, and students). Key examples of databases that do not include full-text content are Web of Science and Google Scholar.
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