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Research Process: Research Databases

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Research Databases

Research databases are organized collections of computerized information or data such as periodical articles, books, graphics and multimedia that can be searched to retrieve information. Databases can be general or subject oriented with bibliographic citations, abstracts, and or full text. The sources indexed may be written by scholars, professionals or generalists.

Research databases that are retrieved on the World Wide Web are generally non-fee based, lack in-depth indexing, and do not index proprietary resources. Subscription or commercial databases are more refined with various types of indexing features, searching capabilities, and help guides.

Prince George's Community College's Library provides commercial databases for its users as well as non-fee databases. These databases are available from the Library's Website. To review these databases, click on Research Databases.

Selecting Appropriate Online Databases

Your topic statement determines the type of database, kind of information, and the date of the sources that you will use. It is important to clarify whether your topic will require research from journals, magazines, newspapers, and books or just journals. To understand the differences between magazines, journals, and newspapers, see the Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers: What's the Difference section under Evaluating Sources. 

Search Strategies

Before you begin to search the databases, it is important that you develop a well planned comprehensive search strategy. Determine what your keywords are and how you want them to link together. Always read the help screens and review any tutorials that have been developed for a particular database.

After you determine what your keywords are, consult any subject headings or guides to locate controlled vocabulary such as a thesaurus that may appear in the subject field. You will also want to decide what other fields may be valuable for your search.

Boolean searching is one of the basic and best search strategies that is used by most online databases.

For more help with search strategies see Search Strategies section.