North Reading Room, Doe Library
North Reading Room, Doe Library

Did you know that the UC Berkeley Library licenses over 200 article databases, covering all disciplines?

If you’ve used JSTOR, PubMed, Lexis-Nexis Academic, Web of Science or many of the tools labeled ProQuest or EbscoHost, you’ve used an article database.

But if you’ve ever suspected that you’re not getting everything you could from these tools, try some of the following tips:

  • Make sure you’re using the right database!  Start with the Library home page and go to the “Articles” link on the left. You can browse by discipline or consider general/interdisciplinary databases.
  • Spend a minute to figure out what each database covers — what disciplines, what types of materials, what dates of publication, languages, etc.
  • Check to see that you’re in the “advanced” search mode, so you’ll have more options
  • When your first search doesn’t retrieve enough:
    * Broaden your search with alternative word endings, using the truncation symbol/wildcard.  If you search:  child* you will retrieve child, childs, children, childish, childhood…anything starting with those characters. Note: if * doesn’t work, check the Help screens to find out what character is used in this database.
    * Try splitting up your search term: enter them in different search boxes (there are usually 2-3 rows of search boxes in advanced search mode)
    * Are there many alternative terms for your topic? Tell the database to search them any of them by using the connector or Hispanic* or latino* or chicano*“global warming” or “climate change”
  • When your first search retrieves too much or is too broad:
    * Try keeping your terms together as a phrase (“global warming” “affirmative action”) by using quotes
    * Try searching by a specific field in the database record — author, title, journal title, etc.  Every database includes different options, so explore what’s available to you — often there’s a pull-down list that starts with “keywords” or “anywhere” or “select a field.”
    * Try searching by official subject terms. One of the most important fields is variously called subject, subject terms, or descriptor. This allows you to search by controlled vocabulary terms that are specific to each database. Searching keywords: Barack Obama retrieves too many items, many of which only briefly mention the President. Searching subject: Barack Obama retrieves items actually about the President.
  • What other search options are available? In many databases, you can limit your results to peer reviewed articles, years published, specific languages, geographical areas, and types of sources (book reviews, conference papers, images, etc.)
  • Where is the article? If there isn’t a link in the item record to full text of the article, click on the UC elinks icon which will link you to either the full text of the article in one of the other article databases, or to the OskiCat record that tells you the library and call number that holds the print version of the journal.
  • Some databases don’t include the UC elinks feature; if that’s the case, search OskiCat by the title of the journal (NOT the title of the article)
  • Output: most databases will let you save items to a list and email or download the list. Some will format the items in citation format (MLA, APA, and other citation styles).
  • Keeping up: some databases will let you create an alert or an RSS feed to receive the results of a particular search on a regular basis.
  • Need more? Some database companies will allow you to search across all their databases (example: ProQuest Social Sciences searches 21 databases in social science disciplines).
  • Not every feature works in every database, and terminology that works in one database doesn’t work in others. Be creative, be flexible, and then ask a librarian for assistance! Find the librarian who is the liaison to your department.

Categories: Featured in eGrad, Headlines, September 2013
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About Débora Silva

Débora Silva, a Brazilian journalist started her career at a television station in São Paulo, Brazil after graduating with a degree in Journalism. For four years, she worked as a reporter and producer for Extensao.Doc, a documentary news program about social and political issues. There she interviewed a wide range of people, including then president, Lula da Silva. In 2009, Débora moved to California to pursue a career as an international correspondent. She graduated with a Master’s Degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley with emphasis in television in May 2014.