Identifying and using subject specific databases is very effective for finding information on a topic. For comprehensive searching it is recommended to use more than one database to access a broader range of resources as a single database does not index all the literature on a specific topic.
A database is a regularly updated collection of online resources and may contain journal articles, ebooks, conference papers, maps, videos and other electronic resources. Databases can be related to specific subject areas or cross multiple subjects.
Most databases offer full-text access, but there are index and abstract databases which provide the bibliographic details and the abstract of the resources only. These consolidate a broad range of resources within a subject area and additional useful functionality specific to the field such as a thesaurus or subject headings.
Understanding the structure of databases will help you get the most out of searching no matter what the tool.
For the purpose of research, a database can be described as:
• a collection or repository of electronic sources
• a searching tool using records and indexes
• a publishing platform (e.g. EBSCOhost which has multiple collections by subject and/or format).
As a student or staff member at Notre Dame, you can access all databases on campus and off campus by logging in through the library page. Subscription databases are listed under the Find > eResources A-Z link on the library home page.
Some databases do not provide full-text access to their resources (such as Scopus) but index millions of high-quality resources. If you find useful resources in one of these databases but there is no full-text option available, check for the FiNDit icon , try a search of Google Scholar, the lead author’s institutional repository, or use document delivery.
Database section in Library Subject guides
Library Subject guides provide an overview of resources for individual subject areas. They contain a section about databases with links to recommended special databases and instructions on how to use them. Look for the databases or journal articles tab in the guides. Links for subject areas are below:
Common features of databases include:
Being aware of the strengths and limitations of a database will help to maximise their potential as well as decide when it is time to select or move to another. The guiding questions below will help you decide on the value of individual databases for your research.
|Questions to ask
Search syntax or algorithm
|Ease of use
Databases can be used for many different aspects of your research from fishing, developing your research proposal, writing your literature review, conducting research activities, writing up your results, and discussing the significance and impact of your research.
Searching databases at the start of your research journey can:
Explore a few different databases to see what sorts of information they contain. Ask your supervisory team and your Research Services Librarian for guidance on what databases may be appropriate to answering your research question.
Activity – How to pick suitable databases for your research