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What Is A Database And How Do I Use It?: Home

This guide is designed for students that are unfamiliar with databases, such as many EAP students, and how they are used in research.

Introduction

The library subscribes to about 154 databases, but when and how to use these resources can be overwhelming and confusing for many students, but especially to those with little or no previous experience with research databases. 

This guide will define databases and explain how they are used. Additionally, this guide will clarify the differences between using the Internet and search engines for research vs. databases.

Related Guides

The guides below relate directly to this Libguide and can be used for a deeper understanding of the overall research process.

What Are Databases?

What is a library database?

A library database is an electronic catalog, index, and digital warehouse for published materials. These materials most commonly include magazine, newspaper, and journal articles.  Often, other items such as books, videos, and audio files are included as well. 

Databases are highly organized and allow students to search for information on a topic by keyword, subject, author, title, and phrase. Most databases at Valencia College provide access to full-text content, which means that you will find entire articles available, not just summaries or citations of articles.

I already know how to use Google. Why Should I Use A Library Database?

Google and search engines are important research tools that students will continue to use for many assignments. However, Valencia instructors will also require that students use what are called "scholarly", "credible" or "peer reviewed" resources.  Databases satisfy all three of these types of resources just mentioned because the articles within are written by experts in their field and/or the information has been evaluated for accuracy before being published.

Information from Google must be evaluated carefully. For instance, what are the author's qualifications?  How current is the information? Is the information even accurate? When you choose a database article, all of these questions have already been answered.

Databases vs. Google Scholar

There are some important differences between these two services.

  • Google Scholar frequently provides you with only a preview or summary of an article and this is often not immediately evident. Ask a librarian if you are not certain. Databases can be set to retrieve only full text articles.
  • You may be prompted to pay for full access to the article in Google Scholar. Never do this! There is a good chance that you have free access to this already in a library database or a librarian can help you retrieve it through other means. Ask a librarian if you need assistance!
  • Google Scholar can be set to search Valencia College databases. For more information on how to do this check the following guide.

My instructor said I cannot use Internet sources for my assignment. Does this include library databases?

Usually instructors mean that you cannot use sources found through a Google search, Wikipedia or random websites.  Databases use the Internet for access, but most articles in databases are not available through web searches. However, always verify with your instructor exactly what type of sources are acceptable. Trying to guess what they want you to use could hurt your grade.

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Subject Guide

Erich Heintzelman
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