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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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5.3 Using bespoke library databases and search engines

Library databases usually contain information about journal articles, books and theses, and provide a quick way to search this type of information invisible to standard search engines and located within the deep web or subscription-only repositories. Within a database, the information relating to each item (e.g. a single journal article) is called a ‘record’, with each record made up of a number of ‘fields’, containing data about any aspect of the item.

The most common fields listed in library databases are:

  • Author/Artist
  • Title
  • Date of publication
  • Summary/Description (e.g. an abstract of a journal article)
  • Publisher/Source
  • Key/Subject words.

When you run a search, the words you enter as search terms are compared to the words in the fields of each record.

One of the key skills to finding useful information for your studies is to be able to identify and use the right database. Some databases (e.g. Academic Search Complete) are multidisciplinary and cover several subject areas; others (e.g. PsycINFO) are more specialised and concentrate on a particular field or discipline area.