Sunday, January 1, 2006

What research database(s) should I use?

It is a common question posed by college students when faced with a research project: why are there so many article databases to choose from and how do I know which ones best fit my needs? The library offers three very useful and easy-to-use tools, accessible from the upper left of the library home page, to help you make these choices:

  • All Research Databases - this is an A-Z list of article databases, e-Book and newspaper collections, and images. Each entry in this list includes subject headings, description and where available, a link to a tutorial and or icon indicating full-text content.
  • Database Subject Guides - pick an area of study that matches your topic and view a list of databases with descriptions that contain content related to that topic.
  • FReD - use this to determine if a specific journal is available in full-text online or browse lists of available journals by subject. You can also use this tool to search within a specific journal title.
  • Having trouble locating relevant keywords that describe your topic? Try the helpful Identify Keywords chart.
  • If you are unsure what topic or subject to look for, try selecting a database from the "All" list above that is displayed in bold. These databases usually have some coverage for all major disciplines and in most cases also include full-text content.
  • Not sure how to cite an article from a research database? Try the Make a Citation tool from the SUNY Institute of Technology or consult the Citations and Bibliographies help page.

Get background information on your research topic

Need to find out what people mean by the term "global warming"? Need to find the federal definition of "poverty level"? A great place to begin research for any paper or essay is a subject encyclopedia or specialized dictionary. The library subscribes to three collections that can help you get background information on your paper topic, the Gale Virtual Reference Library, Oxford Reference Online and Encyclopedia Britannica. Each covers numerous subject disciplines and is searchable across dozens of resources at the same time.

To access the Gale and Oxford online reference collections, go to the library home page ( and click on the links under the "Facts and Background Information" section on the left side. Click on the "More..." link to access Britannica and other reference resources. You will need your college login and password in order to access these services.


ProQuest is a multidisciplinary database of full-text articles and article citations. This resource, one of the many research databases available through the online library, provides access to thousands of current and past periodicals and newspapers covering a wide range of topics.

It also has a user-friendly search interface, with up-front search options to help you limit your search to only full-text documents or peer-reviewed journals.

ProQuest search page

ProQuest helps make searching easier by suggesting additional or related topics to your search terms. For instance, a search in the screen capture above produced this list of "suggested topics." Clicking on any of these topic links will begin a new search for these exact terms.

ProQuest suggested topics
ProQuest also provides a list of "suggested publications" that relate to the terms you've searched for, such as this list of journals that relate to a search on diabetes.

ProQuest suggested publications
To help you refine your search results, ProQuest can help you group and sort your search results. The image below shows the tabs that allow you to view only results of a specific document type (i.e., scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) and sort your results by date or title, or display only items available in full-text.

ProQuest results sort tabs
Comprehensive online help is available by clicking on the "help" link at the top right corner of every page, or you can ask a librarian for personalized assistance.
To begin searching the ProQuest database go the library home page and click on the "All Research Databases" link. You can select ProQuest from the list of library resources on that page. The library staff has created a ProQuest tutorial to help you get started, as well. Don't forget: you'll need your College login and password to access ProQuest and other library databases.


If you need to locate the full-text of a scholarly article published five years ago or more, the JSTORarchive may be a good place to start looking. JSTOR is a unique collection because it offers the complete archives of a core group of 350 academic journals from the arts, cultural studies, languages, literature, social sciences and the history of science, starting with the first published issues, some of which date to the 19th century.

You can search JSTOR by going to the Library home page ( and clicking on the link for "All Research Databases" in the upper left part of that page. You will need to type in your college login and password to access.

You have the option of either browsing the journal titles by subject or alphabetical listing or searching directly for articles using keywords, author or title words, etc. The screen capture below shows the default Basic Search page.

JSTOR search pageDirect links to JSTOR full-text articles have also been activated in many of the library's research databases, such as Historical Abstracts, the MLA International Bibliography in Gale's Literature Resource Center, and in all of the research databases that display the "Article Linker" icon in the citation.

You can view a step-by-step tutorial for accessing and searching JSTOR in the Research Tutorials section of the library home page.