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Database help: Introduction

What is a database?

A Library database is a collection of items, presented in the form of individual items or records, which you can search and browse using a computer or device.

CSU Library calls them Journal Databases, because predominantly they contain journals and articles. But in fact they can contain items of all different types:

  • scholarly journals, trade journals, newspapers, and magazines
  • theses and dissertations
  • eBooks
  • video clips
  • images
  • company records
  • other resources

Some databases cover a particular subject area, while others cover a range of subjects.

Journal databases contain journal and article records which are similar to what we call references or citations.

Each record contains information which summarises the journal or article.

Screenshot of a journal article record in a database

Many databases contain the full-text of the articles as well. Most commonly, a journal database will have the fulltext for some articles, but not for others. (Some journal databases are entirely fulltext; others have none at all.)

You can browse a database for relevant material but you can also search using keyword and key phrases. Databases generally have quite sophisticated search functions. See Searching in a Database.

Many databases are available to you via one of four important Database Platforms. See Databases and Database Platforms.

Databases compared with other resources

Primo Search:

  • searches across most of the resources that the Library provides. This includes most of the databases
  • is the best way to find a journal or article when you already have the details
  • can also be used to search for articles on a topic
  • acts as a search tool which will then link you to the database where the item, such as an eJournal, an article, a video clip, a thesis, or a newspaper article, is held
  • has the advantage of searching across a huge range of resources. On the other hand, the search functions are not as sophisticated as in databases, and you might get results that do not seem to be relevant

Google Scholar:

  • is a way for you to find journal articles using the familiar Google interface;
  • acts as a search tool which will then link you to a record in Primo Search, which will then, in turn, link you to the database where the item is held;
  • has pros and cons that are similar to searching in Primo Search.

Note: If you use Google Scholar, you should do so from the Library's Google Scholar page, as this is set up to show which of the results are held by CSU Library. Alternatively, you can learn about setting up Google Scholar to show CSU-held results at these instructions.

The Internet is a great source of information about government departments, consumer issues, companies, latest news and more, but also gives you a lot of irrelevant and/or unreliable information, and does not necessarily give you access to scholarly literature.

On the other hand, databases

  • are likely to contain reliable and well-researched scholarly material;
  • are often targeted to a subject area;
  • contain items that have been indexed – that is, someone has read each article and given it subject headings, which can be used as effective and relevant search terms.
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Databases and Database Platforms

It's helpful to know the difference between a database, and a database platform.

As we have seen, a database is an organised collection of information records or items that you can access with a computer or device, containing journals and articles, or videos, images, or listings of people or companies.

A database platform, on the other hand, is a company which provides access to a number of databases, via a search interface unique to that company, where the databases can be searched/browsed individually or together.

Database Provider Databases
The 4 main database platforms, and examples of databases they contain:
EBSCOhost
ProQuest
Informit
Ovid

How to locate databases

Look for this banner on many Library webpages or under Current Students> Library:

Databases banner

 

Or select Journal Databases on the homepage:

Databases link on Library homepage

 

 

 

Help from a Librarian

Need help?

What are databases and why you need them (Yavapai College Library)

The problem with the Internet

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Will Lion