Searching Article Databases

ERD Subjects
The Electronic Resource Database subject selector

So you've got some topic ideas and a few keywords, where do you go from here? A great place to start is by searching through an article databaseDatabase: a large, regularly updated file of digitized information (bibliographic records, abstracts, full-text documents, directory entries, images, statistics, etc.) related to a specific subject or field, consisting of records of uniform format organized for ease and speed of search and retrieval., where you can search for what is published in popular, professional, and scholarly journals. Journals have the advantage of presenting more current information than is found in books (see the Timeline) and because articles are shorter than books the information in them is more focused.

You find databases by going to the Electronic Resources Directory (ERD). From here you may search for a specific database by title (Warning: don't enter your keywords here, this search box only pulls up links to databases!) or you can pull up a list of all the databases in a subject area.

You'll search article and journal databases by keywords; the search will return a list of articles that contain the words you typed in (the result list). The result list has a brief record - basically the citation to the article. If you click on the title of the article (in most cases) you'll go to a more complete record that will usually have an abstract Abstract: a brief, objective summary of the essential content of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, or other work that presents the main points in the same order as the original. or summary of the article. An abstract is useful for deciding if the article is worth pursuing or not.

Example Search

For the purposes of this tutorial, let's assume you are preparing a speech for your communications class and you've decided to speak on good communications for better roommate relations. For a general information topic you can use a "multidisciplinary" database such as Academic Search Complete or Academic OneFile. These cover all the journal types you learned about in the previous section and have a good range of information from popular to scholarly. For our example topic of good rules for good roommates, let's choose Academic Search Complete to work with.

Type in your keywords (you've chosen to use "roommates" "rules" and "college"). The first article that comes up in the list looks good - it is titled "Rules for Roomies"! You go to the complete record and notice that the list of subject headings includes the phrase "interpersonal communications" and you tuck this idea away for future reference.