Why use electronic databases?
To identify and locate "partial" items
- articles in journals, especially in peer-reviewed academic journals
- many, if not most, academic journals have migrated from print to digital format
- interviews in magazines
- editorials in newspapers
- information found in books
- except for a few proprietary databases, databases index far fewer books than they do journal articles
Two approaches: Library home page (scroll down) Subject Guides <click>, Subject List <click>, and then choose a subject <click> and then a database; OR Subject Specialists <click>, Nuttall <click>, and then Language and Literature: Electronic Databases by Subject and select a database.
- by Subject List (http://www.jsu.edu/library/resources/databases_subject.html)
- by Subject Specialist (http://libguides.jsu.edu/prf.php)
Database selection depends on not only the subject being researched, but also on the approach to that subject
- for example, searching Ann Radcliffe as a woman novelist will concentrate searching in the literary databases, but searching her as a woman novelist also will bring into play some of the social sciences databases
NOTE: The following information references EBSCOhost databases such as Academic Search Premier, partly because the library subscribes to so many of them and partly because the EBSCO interface is so user friendly.
Search window (make sure database is set for Advanced Search)
- Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)
- define the relationship between the terms in the boxes to either side of the operator
- AND usually returns the fewest search results but with the highest relevance
- OR returns the greatest number of results, but at the expense of relevance
- NOT is used to block words which may sabotage a search (like "film," if what you are seeking is book reviews)
- if manually entered, Boolean operators must be typed in ALL CAPS
- Select a Field (directs search engine to search only specific parts of an item record)
- SU usually returns fewest results but with highest relevance
- TX usually returns highest number of results but with less relevance
- Select a Field is midpoint default setting and is suitable for most searching
- TI is for the partial item (article, essay, chapter)
- SO is for the entire item (journal, magazine, book)
- Using the term(s) you have typed in the Search box(es) as your measuring standard, in the center pane of the interface (Results List), look for matches of your search terms in
- the hi-lited title of the article
- the Subjects line beneath the article citation
- the article Abstract (a summary of the article); to view the Abstract, click on the article title to migrate to the full record screen
- the more matches you get, the greater the likelihood the article will be useful
Center pane (Search Results)
- lists the results harvested from a search with links to full text (where applicable)
- clicking on blue folder image at right side of pane will add item to a master folder (top of screen)
- full text options
- HTML and PDF text is available within database
- Full Text Finder and Linked Full Text search for full text outside of database
Left pane (Refine Results)
- permits search manipulation through filtering by document type and format, date range, and other limiters
- filtering will reduce number of results from previous searches
Right pane (Tools)
- does not become visible until hi-lited title of article is clicked on
- offers citation generator and full text retention options
The algorithm can be tweaked to work with databases provided by other vendors. Most databases offer the same features, only sometimes with different names and in different locations on their interfaces when compared to EBSCO.
1. Make sure database is set for Advanced Search (three search boxes stacked).
2. Enter principal (broadest or main) term in top Search box; <search>.
- making initial search unfiltered shows maximum number of results possible
- following initial search is good time to apply left pane Refine Search filters such as document type and full text
3. Peruse search results for relevancy and additional filtering terms.
- see Relevance trifecta above
- look at titles of items indexed and Subjects line for terms which could be added to the search to get nearer the "bullseye" of your subject
4. Consider alternate search terms and truncation.
- alternate terms = words which have some connection with words already used in Search boxes
- e.g., "mind" or "mental" for "psychological"
- truncation = using the asterisk (*) at the end of an abbreviated term in order to account for variant forms of the word
- e.g., psychol* will stand for psychology, psychologies, psychologist, psychologists, psychological
- permits piggy-backing multiple searches into single search without compromising quality of search results
- alternate terms and truncation both should increase the number of search results
- researchers want information; ideas, arguments, opinions -- abstract concepts
- digital search engines are literal; they will look for the words typed into the Search boxes
- therefore researchers should choose search terms most likely to harvest the information they seek
- vocabulary drill: concept overrules language
5. Enter first filtering term in middle Search box; <search>.
6. Enter additional refining terms (if needed) in third and following Search box(es).
Add rows, change Boolean operators and search fields as needed.
Use left pane to limit search results; use right (Tools) pane for citation formats and full text retention options.