PDF Download Tutorial Introduction To Databases

About This Tutorial
Databases are now the most common source of research information for college level work. Knowing how to use databases is an essential tool for today’s college students. The following is a basic introduction to the components of databases, to their most common characteristics and to how they are commonly used.

Getting Started
What are some database components?
How can I choose a database?
What are common search features of databases?
How can I get further assistance?

Prepared by Prof. Jim Cassidy, 02/2011 - 516.237.8611 /

Getting Started
Databases are collections of information stored and organized in a way that the contents can be retrieved by searching.

Adelphi’s databases are predominantly bibliographic or article databases since they contain the digitized contents of journals, magazines, newspapers and other hardcopy formats. Searching these databases will provide records of articles or, in some cases, the complete article.

The majority of databases are subject specific which means their content is devoted to one topic. (Business Source Premier). Others are multi-subject. Academic Search Complete, Omnifile full text, Project Muse and Proquest Research Library Collection are examples of such databases.

Some databases provide only citations. An article citation contains all the information a researcher needs to find a published article, as below: author(s), title of journal, volume, issue # and page(s).

Example 1

Others will also provide an abstract, usually written by the author, which is a one paragraph summary of the contents of an article. Some databases have “abstracts” as part of their name (Social Work Abstracts). Below is an example.

Example 3

Some databases provide the full text of some articles in HTML (web page format) and/or PDF (document image format). In Adelphi University’s “A to Z list of databases”, the full text databases are indicated as seen below:

Example 3

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Database Components
Each article in a database is a record. The record consists of numerous fields which are the components or attributes of the article. Author, title of article, title of journal and document type are examples of fields which make up the record of an article. A search can be made on any field or combination of fields.

The most commonly used field for searching within databases is subject headings. They may also be called subject terms, descriptors or keywords. They are added to the record of each article by the company creating the database. Sometimes an author will provide a list of keywords that may be used as search terms for an article.

Below is a citation showing the subject terms which were attached to the article. Any search in this database using the search terms “utopias” or “professional practice” or any of the other subject terms would produce this article in the search results.

Example 4

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Choosing a Database
Multi-subject databases are comprehensive by design and have articles on most subjects in a college curriculum. They are a beginning option for a research project.

An alternative approach is to match the subject of inquiry with the databases available. From the library home page, click on “Articles and databases”. Click on the drop down menu under ”RESEARCH BY SUBJECT” and enter the subject of the research project: education, law, social work for example.

Example 5

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Common Search Features of Databases
Most databases provide a basic search and an advanced search option. The primary difference between them is one box for search terms in basic search, and multiple boxes for search terms in advanced search.

Since most of the features made available to researchers are present on the same page as the advanced search box, it is generally the option to choose.

Below is an example of an advanced search page.

Example 6

BOOLEAN SEARCHING- it refers to the use of one or more of three words in searching that determines the number of results that will be received. They are part of the drop down menu in the advanced search boxes as below.

Example 7

Linking two search terms with AND results in a reduced number of results because two search terms must be found in each record.  Teenagers AND sports.

Linking two search terms with OR results in an increased number because either or both of two terms must be found in the record. Teenagers OR adolescents AND sports.

Linking two terms with NOT reduces the number of results by excluding a term from the results. Teenagers OR adolescents AND sports NOT baseball.

LIMITERS- most databases provide features in the form of check boxes or drop down menus which allow a researcher to refine certain attributes of the article. The following are commonly used limiters.

Full text – checking this box ensures that the full text of the articles shown in the results list will be available.
Peer reviewed – checking this box requires that all articles in the results list have been reviewed by others in the field of the author.
Scholarly journals – ensures the source of the article is a journal and not a magazine or newspaper.
Dates – the dates of the original articles in databases can vary widely. In some databases the range will change depending upon the subject being searched. By specifying a time period to be searched, a researcher can ensure the timeliness and the chronological appropriateness of the articles in the results list.
Document Type – allows the researcher to narrow the format of the results if needed: book review, journal article, newspaper article, editorial.

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Further Assistance
Database providers include assistance modules with their products. They can be found under SEARCH TIPS or the more conventional HELP.

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For additional information, please contact:

Adelphi University Library
Reference Desk
Adelphi University
P.O. Box 701
Garden City, NY 11530-0701

p - 516.877.3574
e -

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