Database Tips and Tricks

 

It’s a familiar feeling: you only need one more scholarly source for your paper due at 8:30 the next morning. It may also just so happen to be 2:30 am, and at a certain point, there’s only so much caffeine in the world. However, by knowing how to utilize the number of databases available at Duke, one can seek relief. Even better, utilizing databases will grant you access to full-text scholarly articles, popular sources, and a multitude of additional resources (all without having to leave your dorm room and trek across campus). In this blog series, procrastinators and planners alike will find recommendations, tips, and tricks on how to navigate the amazing range of databases Duke Libraries have to offer- without wanting to tear your hair out.

There are two primary categories of databases you will find in academic libraries: general databases and specialized databases. If you are just beginning to explore your research topic, a general database, such as Academic Search Complete or JSTOR, can help guide your initial research. These databases are multidisciplinary and draw from a wide range of journals. However, once you have started the research process, you may find that general databases no longer offer the content you need. For example, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; if you had a research assignment related to the history of sexual assault in the United States, you may want to first use a general database such as Academic Search Complete to help guide your research before delving into specialized databases. However, after you have discovered some possibly relevant sources that could help guide your keyword search, you may then want to pursue sources in specialized databases- for this example, specialized databases in History or Women’s & Sexuality Studies.

On Duke Libraries Research Database guide, the most popular general databases are directly linked at the top of the guide. One of those, and indeed one of the most popular general databases in academic libraries, is Academic Search Complete. Academic Search Complete is hosted by EBSCO. Note that EBSCO itself is not a database; rather, EBSCO hosts a multitude of databases, including both general and specialized varieties, and across a variety of disciplines. As discussed above, Academic Search Complete would be an ideal database with which to begin the research process for many of your classes. Through Duke Libraries’ subscription to Academic Search Complete, you can access full-text scholarly articles, popular sources, as well as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

There are a variety of factors you may consider when choosing a database- among them should be exactly what type of source you are looking for. If a database only offers abstracts, but you require a full-text journal article as a source, it would not be an appropriate database option. Finding the right database for your research is not necessarily always a seamless process; however, Duke Libraries have many resources available in order to help you conduct your research and access the best articles and journals.

Quick tip: Know what citation style your professor wants/requires before beginning your research. Many databases will provide formatted citations based on the style needed (MLA, APA, etc), While you should double-check the citation provided in order to ensure it is formatted correctly, using that citation as a foundation should save you some time.

Additional resources:

  • Be sure to check out Duke Libraries’ Research Guides. These guides, created by Duke University librarians, offer specialized tips centered around your area of research.
  • As always, if you are ever stumped by navigating databases or wondering where to go next in your research, Duke’s librarians are here to help. Here is a quick link to get help via chat, email, or phone: https://library.duke.edu/research/ask

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