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LIS 1111 - Research Skills: Unit/Week 6

This LibGuide is for students in the LIS 1111 class.

What is a Database?

A database is a collection of information. There are many types of databases that we access all of the time, without even thinking about it. When you search an online store such as Amazon, Target, or eBay, you are searching that company's huge database of products. You put in keywords for what you are looking for and it produces results that best match your search. When you use your cell phone to search for a contact, you are searching your phone's database, a database that you created and then continue to build upon as you enter in new contacts. When you search for and view videos on YouTube, you are using a database.

Library databases are pretty much the same thing, they just contain a different type of information than Amazon. Most library databases are a collection of information related to articles from newspapers, journals, and magazines. Each entry within the database contains information about an individual article. It will tell you the article title, who wrote it, when it was written, and in what periodical it was published, among other things. Most library databases also let you review the entire article.

Many databases contain records for articles from so many periodicals that search results can produce an overwhelming number of records. That is why it is important to have a well defined topic and to not search too broadly on a subject. Think back to the topics discussed in Unit/Week 3. Brainstorming keywords and playing around online to help you learn more about a topic will help improve your search within a database to make the results more relevant.

Watch this helpful video that describes what a database is:

Why Not Only Google?

We discussed in Unit/Week 3 how Google can be useful. Most of us use it, or some other search engine, when we want to find something out or learn more about something. It can help us understand the basic information about something, and find keywords, but Google has its limitations. For example, if you wanted to figure out where you can locate a book you want to read, Google will not help you find a library it is located in. It will tell you a hundred different places you can buy the book, but not where you can borrow it. That is because Google does not search a library's online catalog. The same goes for journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Sure, Google might find a record for the exact article you are looking for, but unless it is provided for free by the publisher, and that is not common, you will either have no access or you will be required to pay to gain access to the article. Google will not be able to tell you that an OCCC Library database DOES have the article where you CAN access it, for free. The OCCC Library databases are also discipline specific. This means that when you access EBSCOhost or some other library database, you can choose the collection of articles that fit the topic you are researching. Another great thing about library databases is that you know the articles you locate are more credible sources. You'll spend a lot more time evaluating the results you find using Google than you will using databases. 

EBSCOhost: A Collection of Databases

"EBSCOhost is a powerful online reference system accessible via the Internet. It offers a variety of proprietary full text databases and popular databases from leading information providers.The comprehensive databases range from general reference collections to specially designed, subject-specific databases for public, academic, medical, corporate and school libraries." -From EBSCO Help

EBSCOhost is one of the most widely used providers of databases by libraries. You may have used it in high school and if you transfer to another institution, you may use it there as well. Institutions that use EBSCO choose which databases provided by EBSCO they wish to have access to. The OCCC Library has access to over 30 databases via EBSCO.

Go to EBSCOhost and look over each of the databases available through the OCCC Library and read their descriptions. You can see that, for the most part, each database is discipline specific. This means that the articles within that database are related to a specific field, such as health or business. 

One of your first steps in using EBSCOhost will be determining which of the databases will be best for you to use, based on what you are researching. If you are not selective and search too many or all of the databases at once, you will have results that are not relevant and the number of results you get can sometimes be overwhelming. 

EBSCOhost Video Tutorial

This video will show you how to get to EBSCOhost via the OCCC Library homepage and how to do basic searches. 

The ABCD of Article Evaluation

You will use the ABCD of article evaluation for each article you use on your annotated bibliography. The chart below will help you walk through the evaluation. You will learn about each letter (authority, bias, currency, documentation), what you need to look for, why you need to look for the information, and how you can tell. The PDF at the bottom is the full size document.

ABCD of Article Evaluation

Searching In EBSCOhost

To get started, go to the OCCC Library homepage, click on Articles under Find, then click on EBSCOhost Databases.

 

You cannot use Google to access EBSCOhost. You must access it via the OCCC Library so that you are authenticated as an OCCC user.

 

The first screen that is presented to you is a list of all of the databases available for you to search. Go through them and decide which ones fit your topic. It is good to include one or both of the first two listed, Academic Search Premier and MasterFILE Premier, as they are multidisciplinary and cover many different topics. To choose the databases, click the boxes next to the database name and then click Continue to start searching.

You will be taken to a search screen with three search boxes. It will look like this:

EBSCOhost Search Screen

In a previous unit, we discussed working on a thesis statement by considering the who, what, where, why, and when of a topic and then selecting some keywords that will help you research your thesis. You should have this step done already so you know what keywords you want to use. Start by adding in one of those keywords to each search box. Do not pose a question or put a series of keywords in one search box. You are not required to put something in every box.

The default search is Select a Field. This will search the more important fields, like titles and subjects. You can start by leaving it like that and see how your search goes. You may want to select a more specific search once you have started getting deeper into your research.

Once you have your keywords ready, hit Search. Take a look at the number of results you get. Are there too few (less than a dozen or two) so that you might need to broaden your search a bit? Are there so many (tens of thousands or even more) that you might want to try different or more keywords?  Limiters will also help you narrow your search and allow you to go through batches of your results at once, rather than all several hundred or thousand that you might be starting with. Use the Refine Results section on the left hand side of the screen to utilize the limiters.

Read over the next box in this unit to learn what the limiters in EBSCOhost can do for you. Select some of the limiters and see what new results you have. Add several or if that narrows it too much, take them away by clicking the blue X next to what you have added.

The EBSCOhost video tutorial discusses the detailed view of the article and how to navigate through your results.

Utilizing Limiters

Like the OCCC Library Catalog, EBSCOhost has many ways to narrow or limit your search results. Here is a list of some limiters you will see and what they are and how they can be used:

Full Text - Limits your results to only articles that are available to be viewed in their entirety.

This is good for when you really want to find an article you can start reading right away, but bad because you will not see results for articles that are available in paper format in the OCCC Library and you will also not see other relevant articles that are not owned that you could then order via Interlibrary Loan.

Peer Reviewed - Limits your results to only Peer Reviewed articles.

You may have an instructor that tells you that you must have a Peer Reviewed (scholarly, refereed) article for your research paper. This is a very easy way to narrow your results down to just those articles. It will, however, take away other sources that might be relevant, such as newspaper articles, so be sure to explore your results with and without this limiter.

Cover Story - Limits your results to only articles that were a cover story (on the front page or front cover).

This is probably one you will use less than any other. It can be useful when you are looking for information about topics that have been big news stories.

Publication Date - Limits your results to articles published within a selected date range.

Some topics will require that you search for some of the newest possible articles, while it may not matter for other topics. You might also have an instructor who requires that your resources only be a certain number of years old.

Source Type - Limits your results to a specific source like newspaper, magazine, or academic journal.

This can be useful when you want to search each type on their own. You might decide you want to see what news stories came out first and then switch to see what scholarly research might have been done on the topic.

Subject: Thesaurus Term - Limits your results to the articles that match the selected similar subject term.

This is helpful when looking for more/new keywords to use. It can also make it easy to look at just a few articles at a time that all use a particular keyword.

Subject - Limits your search results to the articles that have a matching subject.

This is helpful to look at a batch of related articles at one time. It can also help you locate what subjects are being used for the topic you are researching.

The available Limiters will change some based on what databases you have selected to search in EBSCOhost.

Now Let's Practice

After viewing the EBSCOhost Video Tutorial, practice doing some searches. You can choose your own topic or select one from the list below. Think back to Unit/Week 3 and brainstorm several different keywords you would want to use for your search. Remember, searching just a single keyword in a database will produce too many results. You may want to use Google and Wikipedia to help you decide how to narrow the topic and to find more keywords for your search.

Video Game Violence

Vaccinations for Children/Infants

Marijuana Legalization

Immigration Reform

This Week's Assignments

This week you will be required to complete a quiz on EBSCOhost and the Global Awareness Annotated Bibliography.

For the Global Awareness Annotated Bibliography, you should explore a topic that develops awareness about what is going on in the world today. Pick up a newspaper and see what is happening. Choose something that interests you that you might want to learn more about. The articles you choose need to be relevant and useful for learning about the topic you have selected.

For the citations for your bibliography this week, you will need to provide the permalink to the article. The permalink can be found in the article's detailed record in EBSCOhost on the right hand side, under tools. Use the link that is displayed for your citation.