Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy, Level Two

Choosing a database that contains articles

In ENG 111 you learned how to use OneSearch.  That is the default search and is the first tab on the row of tabs on the library's home page.  If you click on the Articles and Databases tab and use the search box, you are searching a number of general databases.  General databases include a mix of journal and magazine articles.  A few journals from each discipline are indexed. General databases are known as interdisciplinary, since they cover different subjects.

In ENG 200 you will learn how to use subject specific databases.  Subject databases cover topics more thoroughly and often have specialized buttons or facets which allow you to further limit searches.  You may find the subject databases in a given subject by accessing the subject's research guide.  The subject guide for a given field recommends the best resources in that field.  You can find these guides in one of two ways:

  1. Clicking on Research Guides under Popular Links.
  2. Clicking on the Articles and Databases tab, and using the Research Guides by Subject drop-down menu to choose a subject.

Choosing a database.  The research topic of "Customer service" could be addressed by business people trying to improve their sales, psychologists trying to predict individual customers' behavior, and sociologists characterizing proper social behavior in different cultures.  Each one of these fields has its own specialized database.  Be sure and read the description of each database.  Which databases contains journal articles and seem to be comprehensive?  Appropriate specialized databases for each of the groups listed above would be Business Source Premier (under Business)  PsycINFO (under Psychology), and/or Proquest Sociology (under Sociology).

Specialized facets. Facets are preselected categories that allow you to limit results.  They are usually displayed on the left-hand side of the results page.  OneSearch does not allow you to easily search facets that are not shared by most databases.  A few examples of common facets are full-text, language, and date of publication.  Different disciplines put emphasis on different things, and the ways you can limit searches in those databases reflect this emphasis. For example, Business Source Premier has something called an NAICS facet which defines the type of businesses being discussed.  Using the appropriate NAICS number, one can construct a search for articles about customer service in the construction trade or limit results to customer service in retail stores.  The education database ERIC lets you limit your search by student  grade level.  These limiters are available only in a specialized subject specific database.  Specialized databases often contain a number of different types of materials.  If you are looking for scholarly articles, click on the peer reviewed or scholarly facets, to take any newspapers or conference proceedings out of your results list.

Abstracts and full-text articles

When you are looking through articles that have come up in your results, abstracts can be very helpful. An abstract is a summary of the article, so it can help you decide if an article is relevant to your topic. If the article is relevant, and you want to read it, you can click on the full-text button or link, or in some cases, a "Check for Full-Text" link. 

If we have full-text access to an article, there are several ways to view it. If you click on "Full-Text PDF" you will be reading a scan of the article and it will include photographs and pages numbers. If there is link to "Full-Text" you will be able to read the article, but it only contains the words. If you see a "Check for Full-Text" button you might be taken to another database that has the full-text of the article or you might need to request the article through interlibrary loan if we don't have it.

Historical information

Most subject specific databases begin coverage in the mid 1980s.  If you want historical information, you may have to use one of the databases listed below:

JSTOR.  JSTOR provides full text online access to important scholarly journal literature beginning with the first issue of the journal.  Current issues are not included.  

New York Times Historical Archive. Provides access to full text and full image articles from the New York Times, including every page, every article and every issue from 1851 to five years ago.

Current information

When thinking of the cycle of information, topics appear in certain formats more quickly than others.  So an account of an event will appear in a newspaper first, and the analysis of that event will appear later in journal and/or book form.  Books and feature films have the longest production time, often three or more years. If you are analyzing a current event that happened only a few days or weeks ago, you will need to use a database containing current newspapers.

America's News.  A collection of local and regional newspapers from across the U.S., including the major North Carolina newspapers.

ProQuest US Newsstream.  This database offers full-text access to hundreds of leading newspapers from around the country, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times.

Databases that cover both sides of an issue

Some databases are designed to present all sides of an issue.

Points of View Reference Center.

A full-text database providing students with essays that present multiple sides of a current issue. The database covers more than 280 topics, each with an overview, point, counterpoint and Critical Thinking Guide.

CQ Researcher Online.

Full-text reports on current and controversial issues, with in-depth coverage of political and social issues, such as health, education, the environment, technology, and the U.S. economy.

Which database?

Here are three research topics.  Which category of databases do you have to use for each? (general, historical, or current)

Shooting at a community college in Oregon yesterday

Eyewitness account details  of John F Kennedy's assassination.

Handgun violence and gun control legislation.