Choosing the Right Database

Oceanside Library subscribes to many different databases, each of which is an organized and searchable collection of valuable information. The types of things you can search for include:

         Articles (from newspapers, journals, magazines)

         Literary reference sources and Literary Criticism

         Business information (from annual reports, SEC filings, company financials)

         Health and Science information

         Art and Music reference sources



What you are looking for will help you determine which database is most appropriate. Start with one of Oceanside's Database pages (Databases in the Library or Databases at Home), which categorize the library's databases into broad subject areas. Find the area most likely to include your topic. If you know the name of a database you want to search or, if you want to read the database descriptions, click the link for the alphabetical list.

Some categories to note:

         Multi-Subject (General Reference Center Gold, ProQuest, eLibrary, EBSCOHost). These databases cover a wide variety of topics and are a good place to start when you're not sure where to go.

         Newspapers/Current Events (General Reference Center Gold, ProQuest, PQ Historical Newspapers, eLibrary, EBSCOHost, National Newspaper Index, Custom Newspapers, New York State Newspapers, Newspaper Source, Newsday, Opposing Viewpoints, TOPICSearch,, SIRS Researcher). These databases include national and regional newspapers and popular magazines. They are a good place to research a topic that's currently in the news.


Databases will generally give you two options for searching:


Useful for starting a broad search

airplanes will retrieve any article with that word


More powerful option, offering Boolean operators and limiters to help you define your search

airplanes AND nuclear weapons AND world war II will help you find articles if you are researching the use of planes to transport nuclear weapons in World War II

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are used to connect and define the relationship between the words in your search. There are three operators that you can use:


All terms listed must be contained in the citation; abstract; or in the case of a full-text database, the article.

jelly AND fish will find results that have both words present.


Just one of the listed terms will need to be present in the citation, abstract or article.

dog OR canine items in your results will have either the word dog or the word canine.


The word following the NOT will be excluded.

bee NOT spelling will find results on the insects but not the competitions.



Another way to control your search is by using limiters. Usually listed in a drop down menu or as check boxes, they let you restrict your search by certain criteria.

Search for "intelligence tests" for the years 2002-2004 for the most recent research, or for Iraq before 1991 for articles that predate the Persian Gulf War.

Article or Document Type
You may want to look for articles that are specifically: peer reviewed, or case studies, or book reviews, or interviews, etc. Each database will have its own list of types, so read them carefully. Also be aware that databases will include items beyond articles, like book chapters and government documents.

Journal Name
You can limit a search to just articles from a specific journal. Look for a field labeled Source, or Publication, or Journal Name where you can type in the name of a journal or browse through the titles list.
Full Text
Most databases will give you the option to limit your search results only to articles that are full text in that database. This can actually hurt your research, causing you to miss important citations that can be found elsewhere in full text. When you first begin searching, it is better to leave the full text limiter unchecked unless you are truly interested in full text only.


Additional Tips


Stop Words
Words such as in, as, and a will not be recognized by the database and are not necessary. Use only key topic terms and string them together using Boolean operators. Your search should not be a sentence.

Use Quotes
intelligence AND tests, will not find the exact same results as "intelligence tests". Quotes around a phrase tells the database to retrieve only the results with both words in the order that you typed them.

Eliminate Punctuation
Punctuation is not necessary and often skews the result list or causes no records to be found.

Start Broad
Begin with one or two terms, then add or subtract terms until you have a workable result list.

Leave Yourself Plenty of Time
There is no way to get the perfect result list. When doing research there will always be false hits. A researcher will have to weed through many "wrong articles" before finding the "right" one.

Use Subject Terms
Subject terms are a controlled vocabulary used to link articles on the same topic. Once you have a good article dealing with your topic, look at the subject terms for the article. Usually listed after the citation or at the end of the article, the subject terms can be used for an additional search or to refine your current search. Many databases provide a subject search.

Truncation and Wildcards
You can search for plural forms of words as well as words with the same stem (airplane, airplanes, teen, teens, teenagers) by using truncation. In most databases you truncate by inserting an * (asterisk) directly after the search term: airplane*, teen*.  Wildcards replace a letter or letters of the search word.  This can be used for variant spellings or plurals: colour, color, woman, women. Many databases use a ? (question mark) as the wildcard: col?r, wom?n. Check the help section of the database you are using to be sure of truncation and wildcard symbols before you use them.



Understanding the Results

In order to understand the results of your search, it helps to understand the basic anatomy of an article.


The citation is the basic information about an article: author, date, title, journal name, volume, page numbers.

Always copy the complete citation, including how you found it. You never know when you may need to retrieve it again.


The abstract is a descriptive paragraph about the article (often written by the author).

Reading an abstract is a good way of deciding whether or not an article is relevant to your research.

Full Text

Full text is the complete text of an article, but there is a distinction: full text can leave out graphic materials such as pictures, graphs, and figures.

Sources of full text:

o         online databases

o         the Library's print and microfilm  holdings

o         Interlibrary Loan

o         local area libraries

o         the Internet


Getting the Full Text

The amount of full text that you find in databases depends on licensing agreements between publishers and vendors.

Also, different databases will use different icons when they link to full text:

HTML Full Text

HTML or PDF full text

[Access article in HMTL]

Linked Full Text


Text + Graphics


HTML Full Text with Graphics

Keep in mind that not all full text is equal:

         PDF: preserves the way an article looked when originally printed, with photographs, graphics, etc. PDFs will open into Adobe's Acrobat Reader and may take some time to load, depending on the length of the article and your Internet connection. PDF files may, at times, take longer than usual to print.

         HTML: includes the basic text of the article. It may include a written description of any photographs or charts.

         HTML with Graphics: straight text with images of any graphic material added

When researching, you will find that a specific article that you need may be a citation in one index, an abstract in another, and full text in a third.


Citing your Sources

Proper citation is an important part of the research paper writing process. Citation resources are available at the reference desk and in the circulating collection.  Oceanside Librarians have selected several websites that will aid you in the citation process. Find the citation links on the Recommended Links page under Homework Help.