Review of Literature Databases - April 2, 2009

Information specialists, librarians, researchers, students, and the general public search databases. For additional information regarding a database, check with an information professional or any "help" icon or description of the database. Database
Databases overlap, combine, emerge, disappear, some are public, some are free, some are fee-based, some are large and include much information, others are divided into smaller subsets.

Some databases are sold in groups by vendors such as Ebsco (Ebscohost), Gale, or provided by organizations including OhioLink, public libraries, the U.S. government (IRS, National Library of Medicine, Dept of Agriculture)

The same database is packaged differently by each vendors/database distributors that buys it including Ebsco, Gale, Lexis-Nexis, Proquest, OhioLink, Dialog, STN (Chemical Abstracts).
Boolean Operators (best to use all capital letters for AND, OR, NOT) are used in database and internet searches.
Boolean logic uses circles to represent sets in a Venn diagram.
Venn diagrams introduced by John Venn in 1880
John Venn was a priest, philosopher, wrote a book on logic.

AND operator -- narrows a search as both terms must be in the record
Example: dogs AND cats includes records that include both dogs and cats in the same article. In a Google search, the AND is understood.

OR operator -- broadens a search as either term may be in the record Example: dogs OR cats includes records on dogs and additional records on cats. In a google search the OR must be in caps and included in the search strategy.

NOT operator -- excludes records with the term after the NOT operator
Example dogs NOT cats includes articles only on dogs, no cats
Additional directions/rules for the use of any database provided by a vendor, using the vendor's platform (interface).
  • check instructions on using the database
  • find out the scope of the database, what it does and does not include
  • always look for and click on "help",
  • look for a "question mark", or other icon for instructions
  • if you can not find what you need when you enter words in the database, look for the "help" icon or any support information
  • many databases and search engines use the double quote to search an exact phrase. Example "ice cream"
  • if you get zero results, recheck your search strategy before assuming there is no information on the topic.
How databases may differ:
- offer the citation and/or full text as .html or .pdf
- years included or excluded
- languages -- English and/or foreign languages
- currency, some are updated faster than others
- subject(s) included

Databases of interest to us in this course:


Finding an author in the Literature Resource Center


Literary Reference Center
(EBSCOHOST (EBSCO) platform)
- described as a more graphical interface
- notice the arrow pointing to Browse Most Studied Authors (below first picture)

Format of records in a database may include:
  • citation/reference
  • abstract/summary
  • **** full text in .html or .pdf ****
  • graphic

Magazine Articles
Academic Search Complete database

Library acquires databases, links online collections, purchases full text, and/or allows students to order materials (interlibrary loan may take time depending upon the lending library).
Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, etc)
- Boolean operators apply to search engines (use CAPS for OR, AND, NOT)
- the AND is understood in Google
- one must use the OR and nest the search strategy
- double quotes used to search the exact phrase "ice cream"

Example: Google Scholar at
- Google Scholar search tips
- search Engines may, or may not, access full text
- some libraries link their full text collections to Google Scholar
- Google Scholar suggests the use of initials of the author rather than the full name
- best to use multiple strategies and verify the result is the author you want

- use Google Scholar as a last resort as the citations may not offer full text
- thousands of articles have been written about Alice Walker
- there are many persons named Alice Walker on Google
- see the narrow search of an aspect of Alice Walker's writings (moral ecology)
- notice the arrows pointing to two .pdf (full text) documents
- a pdf document is an exact copy of the original document

Click on the Google blog for important new Google features as of 3/24/2009.

In regard to the internet, be aware that information may be fictitious.

Example: click on this web site authored by an excellent physician.
Dr. Martin includes full text of his expert medical papers and books. Recently he started a fun section on his web site entitled, Fictitious Reviews, full text reviews of works that
do not exist!

Dr. Martin enjoys writing each evening. He hopes the fictitious portion of his web site might inspire others to write.

Revised April 25, 2009 by RSR for MSS