Redefining the Classroom

Kenneth J. Shouldice Library Help Me!

How to choose an appropriate database

To choose an appropriate general database, you have two choices,
  • General databases, and
  • General academic databases
You use a general database to find articles (databases list articles, catalogs list books) about almost any topic. These articles are not particularly academic, however. They're a great place to find information for Freshman and Sophomore papers and speeches, and information for most classes that are 100 or 200 level, outside your major. To access general databases, go to the Find Articles and Other Resources link from the Library's web page, or log in to My.LSSU and click on the My Library tab. Click on the General category. Choose any of the Less Academic... databases and start searching. Most topics should be represented here. If you can't find what you need, try modifying your search using terms with similar meanings. As an example, some databases tuck information under the heading "elderly," others put information of a similar nature under "aged." You have to run a few searches to see what terminology your database uses. If you need some help, contact a librarian.

You use a general academic database to find academic material that crosses into different academic disciplines. An example might be an article that deals with hospital management. An appropriate article might be found in a medical database--because a hospital is a medical facility, or a business database--because a hospital is a business. A general academic database should provide research or scholarly information about hospital management that would be listed in both a business database and a medical database. (If you want to be thorough, you will need to search in both of those types of databases as well.) Searching a general academic database is a great way to find materials you would miss by looking only in subject specific databases.

To choose a subject specific database
Our databases are listed by subject, both on the library's web site and on the My Library tab. We have tried to organize them so that the database we think students will find most productive. That means we list databases that are
  1. most likely to fit the needs of students in LSSU classes, and
  2. most likely to have materials that are available on line, or in our paper collection (top floor of the library, in alphabetical order by title of the magazine or journal)
Your first step is to determine the best broad subject area of the information you are seeking. If it's Biology, go to the Biology choices. If it's Education, click on the Education category and look at the choices there. Again, we organized them so the databases nearest the top of that category are most likely to provide materials for LSSU classes, AND to have the material available on-line or in paper in our library. With that in mind, try the top entries in the subject area first!

If the recommended databases don't provide results, you can certainly try some of those that are lower on the list, but also try different terms. If you find any articles that are somewhat on the appropriate topic, look at the subject headings. Here's an example of how that can be successful. In a recent search, a student was looking up information about "controlled burns." We tried a few databases and found almost nothing. One article had "controlled burns" in the title, though, and so we clicked on it. In the subject headings list was "prescribed burns." When we clicked on that subject heading, we found nearly 300 articles, many of which were appropriate for his project.

There are other things to consider, when looking for appropriate databases. If there's any way to make money, or lose money, on your topic, check the Business databases, and specifically ABI/Inform. Also, if anybody teaches about your topic, check the education databases. If you're looking at a topic that happens at a college or university, check the education databases. If you're seeking information about criminals, check social science, sociology and psychology databases. If you're in search of information about fires or fire fighting equipment, check the Applied Science and Technology database. The list goes on... but the most important thing is that if you're having problems finding material on your topic, that you ask a librarian. Either stop by the library, call the Reference Desk (906-635-9313) or Ask a Librarian.