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Database Help


Getting Started

Quickly learn basics of using library databases to find articles.

Finding Articles Video Tutorial

This 5-minute video will show you how databases can make your academic research more productive and efficient. It will focus on:

  1. choosing a database,
  2. limiting your results in useful ways, and
  3. getting articles

The rest of this guide reviews lessons and tips from the video, and covers additional helpful tips.

Video Navigation

Welcome to the BC Libraries Core Skills Tutorial on Finding Articles with Databases. This video will show you how databases can make your academic research more productive and efficient. It will focus on choosing a database, limiting your results in useful ways, and locating articles.

Databases (0:23)

At the beginning of a project, when you don't know your subject deeply and aren't sure where to start, a Research Guide can point you in the right direction. For example, in the FWS Research Portal, the "Key Resources" section suggests trying an interdisciplinary database like Academic OneFile. Such databases allow you to search multiple academic fields and document types. Suppose that you want to write about the cultural impact of cell phones. This experimental first search generates a manageable number of results, but you can use filters to narrow this list and save time.

Limiting your results (1:02)

Most professors will prefer that you use peer-reviewed sources. By checking the "peer reviewed journals" box on the left, you can limit your results to sources that have been rigorously reviewed by experts in their field.

Expand the subject panel on the right to see how many sources have been categorized according to each subject tag. If you've decided to focus on college students, you can quickly skim the abstracts of these few articles to see if they might be useful. Note that this database highlights each instance of your search terms in the text. Also note that in this case Academic OneFile has taken you straight to the full-text article. From here you can save it to your RefWorks account... or download the file to your computer, or print it and take a copy with you.

Subject-specific databases (2:06)

When you have further focused your project, you should look at subject-specific databases. Return to the "Research Guides" page and select a relevant field. For example, if you are researching the effects of cell phone use on attention span, you could try communication. The first database under "Key Resources" is a good place to start, so try "Communication Abstracts."  Begin with an experimental search, and limit your results to peer-reviewed sources by clicking the box on the left. Notice that all the results include "cellphone" as a single word. If you click on the first title, though, you'll see that this database uses the subject term "cell phones" as a two-word phrase. Using the same phrase the database uses will generate the best results. Click on the link to see all the entries that have been tagged with this subject...

Now you can limit your results by adding search terms. Since you're curious about how cell phones affect one's attention span, you might add the word "attention."

Sometimes you'll have to select the "peer-reviewed" box again, too.

You can use the publication date slider to focus on only the most recent articles.

If a title sounds relevant to your project, click on it to see more detail.

Locating articles (3:40)

If the database does not take you straight to a full-text article, click the "Find it @ BC" button.

Follow the link to the resource that does offer the full-text version-- in this case, it's the SAGE Communications Studies Collection. Now you can view the article as a web-text OR download it as a pdf.

Sometimes BC has access to the text through another university. Click the Interlibrary Loan link and sign in. A BC librarian will request a scan of the text and email it to you within a few days.

Other texts may be physically located in one of the BC libraries. Click "Request Scanned Article" in the upper left corner, and sign in. A BC librarian will find the text, scan it, and email it to you, usually within a few hours.

Helpful tips (4:40)

When you know that a particular database is working for you, you can quickly return to it anytime by going to the library homepage and typing its name into the Databases search box.

Each database works a little differently, so it's important to experiment, keep a record of all the search terms that have worked well for you, and if you need help, just ask a librarian. With a little patience and a spirit of exploration, you'll soon be navigating the databases with confidence.


Guide created by Lauren Pistole during a Spring 2017 internship, with input from BC Libraries staff.