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What is a Database: What is a Database?

Databases

A database is an online collection of items that can be sorted and categorized.

Amazon is a database that allows you to sort items you can purchase by categories, such as books, clothes, etc. You can also use filters, such as price, to find the best deals.

Library databases provide you with access to information that isn't available for free online, such as scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and more. The library databases allow you to sort and filter information sources by source type, publication date, language, etc.

What Are Databases and Why You Need Them

A Yavapai College student explains the benefits of using library databases for research over searching the web (Yavapai College Library, 2:34).

Why Can’t I just Google

La Trobe University Library (3:12)

This video introduces you to the difference between information found via Google and scholarly information. It emphasizes that Google is a popularity contest. 

  1. Why shouldn’t you just use Google for your papers?
  2. How can Google be helpful in the research process?
  3. Why should you be careful about using Wikipedia?
  4. What is a library database?
  5. What kind of resources do the library databases offer?

Finding & Selecting Databases

Picking a database to search in is like picking which streaming service you are going to use to find a movie to watch. Are you going to look in Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime? Your information need will help you with making decisions about where to look for information. You may have to try a variety of tools to find what you need.

Netflix logoHulu logoLogo for Prime Video

To find all of the library's databases:

  • Log into the Portal.
  • Click the Library tab at the top.
  • Click on Find Databases, which will take you to the library's Databases A-Z list. You can search for a specific database by name or use the filters to limit the databases by subject area.

To select an appropriate database from the list: 

Image of database subjects1. Think about your topic.

2. Which of the subjects represented in the Subjects drop-down list does your topic most closely fall under? Health? History? Science? There may be more than one relevant category, and that's okay. Just start with one subject area.

3. After you select a subject area, you will find a list of databases that are good for topics related to the selected subject. But each is different. Read the database descriptions to determine if the database contains the kind of information you are interested in.

Selecting a Database

screenshot - considerations in database selection

Databases A-Z