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Honors College Forum, Research Basics: Databases and Quicksearch

Selecting an article database

From the Libraries homepage, under the QuickSearch search box, Databases. We have a hundreds of databases for articles, e-books, statistics, video, and more. A good way to navigate this very long list is to click the drop-down menu under Subject at the top of the page, select a subject relevant to your research question, and click Apply. At the top of a list by subject is a Best Bets list, a list useful databases for that subject.

If you have a multi-disciplinary topic, if you want to search for popular as well as scholarly scholarly sources, or if you're simply not sure how to get started with your research, try Academic Search Premier. It's a large, multidisciplinary database with a pretty intuitive search interface and lots of full text.

QuickSearch, at the top of the RUL libraries homepage and the New Brunswick Libraries homepage, searches across many, but not all, of the databases. See the QuickSearch tab for more information. 

Searching for articles

With a few exceptions, the rules, the logic of setting up an effective search is uniform across the article databases. Most databases default to Advanced Search. Advanced Search provides a better range of search options and better control over your search results than the Basic Search option.

The basics of constructing an advanced search:
- Use "double quotes" to search for a phrase: "food insecurity"
- * is a wildcard, will search forms of a term: child* also searches child's, children, children's etc.
The search boxes in advanced search are connected with AND. The more boxes, the more ANDs you use, the more specific your search. All of the search terms have to appear together in your search result.
- "food insecurity" and child* is a more narrow search, finds fewer articles then searching for just "food insecurity"
Within a search box, searching terms with OR has the opposite effect. It broadens your search, because any of the terms can appear in your search result:
- "food insecurity" or "food security" will produce more search results than just "food insecurity"

Many of the subject-specific databases are products of either EBSCO or ProQuest, two major database vendors:
- To see the search terms above used in ProQuest's PAIS, a public policy database, click here. In the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, the default is Anywhere. That searches your search terms in the full text of the articles in the database, plus the records of the articles.
- To see the same search terms used in an EBSCO database, Academic Search Premier, click here. Here the default, Select a Field (optional), searches your terms in just the records of the articles. The "fields" of a record include the author field, title field, subject headings, abstract of the article, etc. You can search in the full text of the articles as well by selecting TX All Text from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box.

Refining your search

Most databases arrange your search results in relevance order. That is, a database lists what it thinks are the most important, the most relevant articles at or near the top of the list of results. You can always click on Relevance and resort the search results, for example in reverse chronological order, newest articles first.

Ways to refine your results:
- If you get a very large initial search result, that may mean that your topic, your research question, is too broad to address in your paper for this class. Food insecurity and children, for instance, is very broad. Consider focusing a broad topic by searching an additional term or terms. In this case, you might add to your search: and africa*.
- Most databases have a list of filters to the left of the search results. You can refine, filter, for example, to the most recent articles, to just the peer-reviewed articles, etc.
- Check out the articles cited in an article's bibliography. If you find a particularly relevant article in a search result, look at its bibliography to see if it cites other relevant articles. Copy the title of a relevant article and search it, in quotes, in QuickSearch. See the QuickSearch tab for further info.
- Search in just the records of the articles. Most databases, by default, search the full text of the articles in the database, plus the fields in records of the articles: author field, title field, subject headings, abstract etc. Searching just in the records (select Anywhere except full text from the drop-down menu) narrows the scope of your search, makes it more specific.
- Search using a subject heading. Browse the records in your search result, paying particular attention to the subject heading field. In the example above, most databases use "food security" as a subject. Refining the search with that subject heading will give your search more specificity.

Accessing the full text of articles

In your search results, most of the records of the articles, sometimes all of them, will have a link to the full text of the article. If you don't see that link, you'll see a Get@R tab. Get@R will try try to link to the full text outside the database.

Most of the time, Get@R will point you to the full text in one or two clicks.

If Get@R can't link to the full text, you'll be directed to a Rutgers University Libraries page that says, Find in Library or How to Get It. Click Sign in and sign in with your NetID. Then click either Article Delivery, Request Item, or Digitization. We'll provide a PDF copy, usually within a day.

If you have any trouble accessing the full text of an article, see my contact information under the Citing your sources tab.

Saving your search results

In most of the databases, in the full record of an article, click on the link that  that says Email or on an email icon. In EBSCO databases, you can also click, in the menu on the right, Permalink.

In most databases, to email a batch of article records, in your results list, check off the box  to the left of the records you want to save, then click the Email link or email icon. In EBSCO databases, click the folder icon to the right of the records you want to save, then on the folder icon at the top of the page, then on the Email link on the right.

For more and better options, check out the Citing your Sources tab. A citation manager, for example, will let you save all of your research in one place and, among other things, will create your citations and build your bibliography as you type your paper.

If you have any questions about saving or citing, see my contact information under the Citing your sources tab.


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