Friday, February 16, 2007

Selecting a Database

So, Which Database Should I Use Already?

One major problem researchers often encounter is deciding which database to use. UF Librarians develop Subject Guides listing databases for each domain, but the lists may include 20 databases! How is a confused student to decide among them? Mostly, folks just use the databases they always use. Often it's not a good one for what they're looking for. And then they say...

"I can't find anything about sleep disorders! Someone must have written about it! I see it on TV commercials all the time."

Well, Sociological Abstracts is probably not the best database to find articles on sleep disorders. (Though I was surprised to find some interesting things on it there. But they might not be what a psychology students expected or needed.)

What are the differences between databases?
  • Which journals does the database index?
    • Which subject area are the journals in?
    • Are the journals all in one subject area or are the journals in all subject areas?
    • Are the journals almost all scholarly or almost all popular or is there a mix?
    • How many journals are covered?
  • What does the database index besides journals?
    • Does it include books, chapters in books, websites, encyclopedias, dissertations?
  • Does the database include abstracts or summaries of the articles or just citations?
  • Does the database have an interface that's easy to use?
    • Do you have a choice of interfaces?
    • Is the interface not easy, but powerful (You can find everything, if you spend a lot of time learning how to use it. Some well-designed interfaces are both.)
Here is a chart that compares the features of databases useful in our departments. I will writing more about making these decisions later. Enjoy!

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