Databases are usually the place to search for individual articles in journals, trade newspapers, and magazines. Some basic idea of what databases are and how they work is helpful, because then you can concentrate on your search.
For information on the various databases available at WU and access to them, please see the university library website.
- Some basic theory
- The most common search options
- An overview of the most important databases
- What can I do if the database doesn’t offer full-text access to the article I need?
A database is a digital archive of information. It consists of a collection of fields, files, and folders that serve to describe a document, an object, or a piece of information. A database’s structure allows users to search for and procure information based on a variety of criteria.
The three most important types of databases are:
Reference databases contain only bibliographic data and not the full text of documents. They provide bibliographic data like author, title, and year of publication of a work, sometimes also brief annotations on books, journal articles, or similar publications.
Full-text databases with bibliographic data contain the actual text of the document (usually journal articles).
Factual databases contain mainly primary data. This could be, for example, statistical data or market information.
Before beginning your search in a database, consider the following questions:
- Which information media or types of literature are included in the database?
- Am I using a reference database or a full-text database?
- What language are the documents in?
- What is the database’s reference period?
- Which truncations can I use?
- Which registers or special search fields are available?
- Can I search using Boolean operators?
Keyword or free-text search
Search for terms without restricting them to a specific field. This usually then automatically searches the following fields:
- Descriptors (keywords)
- (Abstract, full text).
Field-specific search, form search, guided search, command search
Search in pre-defined fields. The availability of specific search fields varies from database to database.
Example: using the field "Abstract" in the field-specific search of the ProQuest databases
Take care using the title search or searching within the text of a document: Titles can be misleading. The search term does not occur in the title in the form used.
Index search, browse index
This search function will produce a list of all entries starting with the search term entered or an alphabetical list of the closest hits.
Subject search, descriptor search
You can also search using terms that describe the document but that do not appear in the document itself (controlled vocabulary). The controlled vocabulary for this type of search is found in an authorized list of search terms (thesaurus).
Example: Thesaurus search in the ProQuest databases
Limited or range search
Example: Filters available in the ProQuest databases
Examples of possible filtering options:
- Publication language
- Year of publication
- Source type
- Publication title
For information on the various databases available at WU and access to them, please see the university library website. Click Browse resources for a form to help you find the most suitable database for your research.
Many databases offer the SFX linking service, which provides alternative options for accessing documents. Click here for more information on SFX.
The library also offers a document delivery service for procuring papers that are otherwise unavailable. A fee is charged for this service.
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