Module 5

Searching Library Databases

This module covers how to search for information in library databases.

When you complete this module, you will be able to:

- determine what databases to use to find the most relevant information depending on your research.
- use different functions to search.
- read records in library databases.
- request items through interlibrary loan.

The PSC Library subscribes to several different library databases, which for the rest of this module will be referred to as simply databases.

When you choose a database, you need to consider two things:

- What type of sources do you need for your research? Reference such as encyclopedias? Journal or magazine articles? eBooks?
- What type of database do you need? General or subject?

Databases, mainly, have articles from periodicals such as magazines, journals, and newspapers. However, some also have reference sources for quick overviews, eBooks, video and audio clips, images, and more.

If you are looking for sources other than articles from periodicals, consider these:

eBooks You can search the Library Catalog or specific eBook collections: ProQuest eBook Central or EBSCOhost Academic eBook Collection.
Reference - short overviews Encyclopedia Britannica
Biography Reference Center
Pro & Con views on social issues Points of View Reference Center
Book recommendations NoveList Plus
NoveList K-8 Plus

Databases can be grouped into two types: general and subject.

They cover many disciplines. They have information from popular sources such as magazines and newspapers as well as scholarly sources such as journals. They may also have eBooks, images, audio and video clips, etc.

Use a general database when:

- you need help to focus your topic.
- your topic doesn't fit any of the subject databases.
- you aren't looking for too technical information.


Examples of general databases are: Academic Search Complete, Points of View Reference Collection, Encyclopedia Britannica, and ProQuest eBook Central.

They cover a specific discipline, although there may be some cross-disciplinary with some. They will have more scholarly sources but may have some popular sources.

Use a subject database when:

- your topic fits a specific subject.
- you want scholarly sources with technical information.


Examples of subject databases are: Business Source Elite, Education Research Complete, PsycINFO, and BioOne. 

On the Library's website, there are several ways you can locate the library catalog and databases.

Quick Search - Search library databases, the library catalog, and other resources in one search. Use the limiters to focus your search to full-text articles, journals, and/or only catalog items.

Articles - Search only library databases for articles. Use limiters to focus search to only full-text articles and/or journals.

Books & eBooks - Search the library catalog including books at Chadron State College and Wayne State College.

Journals - Search for journals, magazines, and newspapers. Use to find the full text article when you have a citation or when you need to read an article in a specific source (e.g. Wall Street Journal).

Research Guides - Find research guides to various subjects that list databases for articles, books, and more. Great place to start when you don't know where to begin.

Find Articles (Databases) - Links to individual databases for articles, books, eBooks, and more.

PrepStep - Tutorials to enhance math, science, English, computer, and college skills. Practice tests and eBooks for occupational exams (e.g. Praxis) and grad school entrance exams (e.g. GRE, MCAT).

You will be prompted to log in when you attempt to access a password protected database or resource especially when off campus.

Your login for the PSC Library’s resources and databases is the same as your myPSC login information. 

You will remain signed in until you close your browser (e.g. Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer).

Searching databases is similar to searching the Library Catalog. Although databases have more search fields and limiters and may have different interfaces and layout, the basics are the same whether it is a database from EBSCOhost, Gale, ProQuest, or JSTOR.

Think about it this way. When you search Google and then use a different search engine, say Bing, you don't need to learn how to search again. Google and Bing may look different but the searching is very similar. The same is true about databases.

Like the Library Catalog, you can use either the basic search option or the advanced search option.

It is a simple search that has only one search field. It is a good place to start a search when you want a general idea of what type of sources is available.

Use when you:
- only want to search using the Keyword search field.
- are doing a preliminary search and need ideas for additional search terms.
- want to see what information is available in the library on a broad topic.

Allows more complex searches with a variety of search fields used at once. Also gives you limiters such as only journal articles and only full-text articles.

Use when you:
- want to combine two or more concepts.
- want to use different search fields other than just Keyword.
- need full-text articles.
- need journal articles.
- need information published during a specific date range.

See Module 3 for Search Strategies.

The advanced search allows you to link more than one concept together and to use different search fields and Boolean Logic.

EBSCO Advanced Search

After you search, you need to browse the results you retrieved and decide if you have sources that answer your research question or if you need to adjust your search strategy to better fit the information you want to find.

Results list has the title as a hyperlink to open the record for that item, publication information, subject terms may be listed, and a direct link to full text option.

EBSCO Results List

The record provides additional information such as an abstract or summary about the item.

EBSCO Record

Full-text means that the entire article or its full-text is available. It may be as HTML, PDF, or both. HTML is the article as a webpage, which will load quicker than a PDF if your connection is slow; however, images and charts may be missing. PDF is exactly how that article would appear in its print source.

If the source you want doesn't have the full-text, you will need to request it through interlibrary loan. However, first you need to read the record to make sure you can use it for your research.

  • Read the abstract to know what it's about.
  • Look at the subjects or descriptors. Do they relate to your topic?
  • What type of material or publication is it?
    • eBooks usually can't be requested from other libraries.
    • Juvenile materials won't have the scholarly research that you may need.
    • Dissertation abstract is the same abstract provided by the database. You'll want to request the dissertation, which is unpublished research that you may not want to use.
  • What language is the information written? Although the record is in English, the information may be written in a different language.
  • What is the date of the publication?
    • New items published in the last year may difficult to obtain because libraries usually keep new titles for their patrons to use first.
  • Do you have enough time to wait for it before you need it?
    • Articles may take 2-3 business days.
    • Physical items such as books may take 7-14 days.
  • Is it available for free on the Web?
    • Search the Web using the title in a phrase search and add an author or two to help focus the search to if it's available.

Once you have read the record, decide that it is relevant and useful to your research, and have confirmed that the article isn't available for free on the Web, you will need to submit a request form. In the databases, you will select the option to "Request the Item" similar to the below icon:
interlibrary loan icon from a database

You then will be prompted in enter your contact information such as email and phone number. When the item arrives at the PSC Library, we will send it to you or, if a physical item, will let you know it is at the library for you to pick up.

You have completed Module 5. You should now be able to do the following:

green check mark determine what databases to use to find the most relevant information depending on your research.

green check mark use different functions to search.

green check mark read records in library databases.

green check mark request items through interlibrary loan.


You are ready for Module 6 - Searching the Web.