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Database Searching: Choosing a Database

Which Database is Best For You?

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Determine the Scope of Your Assignment 
Find a Selection of Databases
Begin Your Research & Find Additional Databases

With over 100 databases to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which database is the best to search in.  Before you get overwhelmed with the amount of choices, follow the steps below to help narrow you choices to find the best database for your research. 

Determine the Scope of Your Assignment

Your first step in choosing a database is to determine what the scope of your assignment is.  Read through your assignment's requirements and determine what types of materials you will be needed to locate and cite.  Also, determine the subject area of your assignment.  Identify the primary and any secondary topics your assignment will cover.  You might have more than one subject area, and as such, you might need to conduct your research in more than one subject specific database. 

Note that not all databases cover the same information and materials.  Some databases focus on the sciences while others might focus in on literature or history.  Also, different databases will focus on specific types of materials, such as newspapers, films and videos, or primary documents.  Good research is conducted across several databases that approach the research question from different angles. 

Find a Selection of Databases

When researching, don't limit yourself to only one database.  Search the same terms and keywords in several databases to pull the most materials. 

There are two types of databases, multi-subject and subject-specific.  A good rule of thumb is to start your research in a multi-subject database to see what different groups are saying about your topic (such as what scientists are saying versus what economists are saying).  Once you have a general understanding of the broader academic conversation, you can begin searching in subject-specific databases. 

Multi-Subject Databases
Multi-subject databases, like their name implies, provides materials covering a topic from several different subject viewpoints.  Examples of multi-subject databases are:

Subject-Specific Databases 
Subject-specific databases focus on one subject area, and will dive more deeply into a topic than materials provided by multi-subject databases will.  To locate a subject-specific database, select the subject area you would like to search, in the drop-down menu for "All Subjects". 

Begin Your Research &
Find Additional Databases

Once you have a list of databases to search, begin your research.  For information on developing strong keywords to search, visit the Developing Keywords Guide.  For more information on searching like a pro, visit the Database Search Tips Guide

As you work through the various databases and compile your research, you may notice that you are finding materials and topic areas that land in a different subject.  Go back to the A-Z database list and locate databases in your secondary topic's subject area and search those databases as well.  

If you need assistance locating databases to search within, contact a librarian. 

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