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Library Dissertation Research: Using Research Databases

Online support to assist with planning and conducting your library dissertation research

Databases provide access to scholarly research, including journal articles, conference proceedings and books.

They also provide access to specific types of materials such as maps, film, news, official papers, standards etc.

wide range of databases are  available to you at the University. 

Explore some of the core resources for your subject area from the A-Z Databases list and try searching for information on your dissertation topic.

Highlighted below are a few key resources that could prove useful across a wide range of different research areas.

 

A-Z Databases Activities

About Databases

What is a database?

Research databases enable you to see what has been published in the area you are researching. They contain detailed records of thousands of journal articles, book references and conference proceedings. These records usually include the article title, authors, abstract (a brief summary), keywords (to enable your search to find it) and more.

Why should I use a database?

  • They are a valuable way of searching for published scholarly research across a wide number of sources
  • You can build complex searches using sophisticated search interfaces. There will be plenty of options to refine your searches, ensuring that the results are likely to be relevant to your needs
  • They contain huge numbers of records, and thus provide comprehensive subject coverage
  • They also provide frequent (often daily) indexing, and so are very up to date

There are many different databases. Their interfaces will all vary, and they may use different terminology.

However, they all have similar features. Once you are familiar with these, you'll be able to find your way around different databases. You can see the main features in the examples below.

This is what a standard database interface looks like:

Once you click the Search button, the results page appears:

It is important to note:

  • Some databases provide full text access to the articles themselves.
  • Some databases are primarily indexes or bibliographic databases, and although they provide information about the content of a journal article, they may not provide full-text access to the actual article itself.
  • Some databases are a mixture of full-text and indexed/bibliographic access.

 

So, when searching databases, be prepared for an extra step. 

After finding a relevant article or book you need to check whether you have access to that item, either in print or in full-text online.  Many of the databases will have a Check for this at Exeter button; clicking on this link will check whether we have access to the item.

 

For more information and top tips on finding the full text, see the How to access full text articles libguide.

In some cases, material you want to consult may not be available to you at Exeter. 

You will be using vast literature databases which feature many millions of resources from around the world. There are a number of options that may be of assistance to connect you with the information you need. 
 

Document Delivery Service

This service can be used  to request books/journal articles from other libraries. There is a charge for this service. Check online to see what arrangements are in place with your College / Department for covering the costs of this service.  You may have an allocation or your supervisor may provide a prepaid token for the request. 

 

Student Book Suggestion Scheme

Students can make book suggestions to the Library. Submit requests online and they will be reviewed by the library. If the book is unlikely to be used by others after your dissertation work, then you may be directed to the Document Delivery scheme instead, for short term access to material.

 

Library Hub Discover

Use this service to search across the book and journal collections of the UK research and specialist libraries.

You can search to see if copies of books/journals are available in other libraries that you could visit whilst at home over the vacation, or by a special trip.  Always check the access requirements before you travel, if you wish to visit another library.  Find out more about visiting other libraries. 

Finding Resources using the A- Z Databases List

To find databases, use the A-Z list

See the next tabs for help with finding the best databases for your topic.

Use the Database Targets worksheet to record useful databases as you explore.

Each entry in the A-Z database list has an information icon. Hover over that symbol for information about the content that is available in the database and an idea of why it might be useful for research purposes. Shown below is the information for Project Muse, which is a valuable humanities research database.

You can scroll through the A-Z and choose a database if you know exactly what you are looking for.

Select databases by Subject

You can select your subject from the drop down subject menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

The subject listings will highlight the 'core resources'; these are key databases that are likely to be of interest to anyone studying and researching in that area.

Your Subject LibGuide will also highlight recommended databases for you to explore.

Select databases by Type

You can select a database type from the drop down type menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

For example, you may want to focus on news, official publications or reference works databases

Sage Research Methods

Sage Research Methods Online (SRMO) is a great resource to use when you are planning and conducting your research.  It is a vast online research methods library.

It is targeted at social science researchers, and covers key research methodology topics that are applicable across the research spectrum.

Sage have produced this LibGuide to help you get the best from the resource.

You can access full text content and instructional videos from leading academics from across the social sciences.

It covers both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Some of the sections are not available - this is indicated by a padlock.  For example, you cannot access the Cases or Datasets sections.

The Methods Map is designed to help you understand the relationship between methods concepts.

You can use it for definitions of particular research methodology terms or concepts, and then link through to content on that subject.  You can also see broader and narrower research content terms.

Find out more in the Sage instructional video. 

 

Enter a research method / concept into the search box - e.g. observation

Scroll through and view items of interest.

You can select other Refine by options if you retrieve a large set of search results. 

Click to see more info on datasets, cases and video

Link to PDF on Sage Research Methods: introducing datasets, cases and videos

JSTOR

JSTOR is a valuable research resource for secondary resources.  You can use it to search and find the full text of published books and journal articles.

Use the How to Search JSTOR LibGuide for an introduction to the service, or take a look at JSTOR's Vimeo channel for instructional videos.

Top Tip: Use the Advanced search option if you want to focus your searching to a particular subject area.

 

You an enter a quick search into the quick search box on the JSTOR home page, for example:

anthropology and "human diversity"

 

Just click on an item to view it and explore it in more detail

 

You can refine your search results from the Refine Results options on the left of your search results.

You may want to refine your results if you find too many as a result of your initial search.

For example, you can search within results or limit by  content type (books or journals), date of publication or subject

The advanced search allows you to be more targeted with your research and apply limits/filters to your search before you begin.

For example, you can add multiple search terms, specify the proximity of your search terms and also select a discipline, e.g. Anthropology, so that you filter out material from other subject disciplines.

 

Web of Science

Web of Science is a large multidisciplinary research database covering all subject areas.

You can use it to discover the global literature on a wide range of topics.  It is not a full text database, but you can use it to discover published material and follow links through to discover the full text available on other services.

Web of Science search image

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