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Library Databases

A guide to help you learn about what a database is, and how to find, chose and use them.

Database Basics

What is a library database?

  • An electronic (online) catalog, index, and/or full-text of published items that is searchable
  • Subscription-based or Open Access

What types of items are in library databases?

  • Articles in journals/magazines/newspapers
  • Reference Information (i.e. entries from encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.)
  • eBooks
  • Documents including primary sources
  • Media including streaming videos, streaming music, images, and art works
  • Data, data sets, and statistics 
  • Open Access journals, magazine, and eBooks that you can access without login  

What types of information do library databases provide?

Databases provide citation information about the items they index. A citation typically consists of:

  • Author's name
  • Title of article
  • Source (i.e. title of the journal/magazine/newspaper)
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Some library databases provide abstracts (brief summary of article) of the items they index
  • Some library databases provide the full text (the entire article) for items they index.

How do library databases differ in what they cover?

  • Specific subject (i.e. academic discipline)
  • Multidisciplinary (i.e., several disciplines)
  • Format (article, eBook, video, image, etc.)

Why Use a Database?

More information: Library databases give you access to information that you cannot find on the general internet.

Quality: Library databases contain published information. This means there has already been some quality control and vetting of information prior to publishing, unlike the internet, where anyone can publish anything. Databases are not perfect--you should still critically evaluate everything--but you can have a little more confidence in what you find.

No additional cost: While free tools like Google Scholar might help you discover materials, you often cannot get them without paying. Saybrook has already paid to subscribe to our databases, meaning there is no extra cost for you beyond what you already pay to attend Saybrook.

More specific search options: Databases offer many ways to limit your search, such as dates, type of publication, subject/topic, and much more. This means you can create more specific searches than you can with a general search engine.

Library Databases vs. Google/Google Scholar

Comparison: Library Databases vs. Google/Google Scholar
Criteria Library Databases Google/Google Scholar
Access to Peer-Reviewed Literature

Provide access to vast array of peer-reviewed journals and scholarly literature

Content is not freely available on web

Access to credible and rigorous research articles

Google Scholar does index scholarly articles but not all are peer-reviewed or from reputable sources

Mix of academic papers, books, conference proceedings, non-peer-reviewed sources

Specialized and Subject-Specific Content

Subject-specific such as PsycINFO, PubMed, and others tailored to psychological research

Use controlled vocabularies that enhance precision in searching for relevant literature

Subject-specific such as PsycINFO, PubMed, and others tailored to psychological research

Use controlled vocabularies that enhance precision in searching for relevant literature

Advanced Search Capabilities

Offer advanced search features for more precise and targeted searches such as: 

 -Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)

 -Field-specific searching (e.g., title, abstract, keyword) 

 -Filters (e,g., publication date, peer-reviewed status)

Offers basic search functionalities but lacks sophisticated search options of library databases
Full-text Access and Interlibrary Loan Service

Based on institutional subscriptions so direct access to full-text links possible

If not available in Saybrook databases, Interlibrary Loan can be used to get it for free from another library

*Provides links to full-text articles but a paywall may be encountered

May also link to versions that are not the final published version (e.g., drafts and preprints)

Quality and Credibility of Sources

Curate content from reputable publishers and scholarly societies

Ensures high-quality and credible sources for academic research and citation

Includes a mix of scholarly and non-scholarly sources 

This makes it important to critically evaluate the credibility and reliability of each result

Legal and Ethical Considerations Ensure compliance with copyright laws and licensing agreements, providing access to content legally and ethically May provide access to copyrighted material without proper licensing, potentially raising legal and ethical concerns if accessed improperly
    *Sync your Google Scholar to the Saybrook Library to access in a database