How Do I...—> Use Databases

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Choosing the Right Database

Dowling College Library subscribes to a number of different databases, each of which is an organized and searchable collection of...stuff. The types of things you can search for include:

What you are looking for will help you determine which database is most appropriate. Start with Dowling's database locator, which categorizes the college'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, choose "All Databases" for an alphabetical list.

Some categories to note:

Check the info icon infonext to each database to learn:


Databases will generally give you two options for searching:

Basic Useful for starting a broad search airplanes will retrieve any article with that word
Advanced 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

Most of Dowling's databases are set to take you directly to the advanced search.

Boolean Operators

Named for English mathematician George Boole (1815 - 1864), Boolean operators are used to connect and define the relationship between the words in your search. There are three operators that you can use:

AND 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.
OR Just one of the listed terms will need to be present in the citation, abstract or article. dog OR canine items in your result set will have either the word dog or the word canine.
NOT 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. Some of the most useful ways to limit a search is by:

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.

Full Text
Some 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.

Additional Tips

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:

  • online databases
  • the Library's print and microform holdings
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • local area libraries
  • the public World Wide Web


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:

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.

In order to help you navigate through the myriad possibilities, the Library created:

Full Text Options at Dowling

Whenever you see this link beneath a citation, the Library's link resolver will:

  • List the databases that contain the full text of your article. Additional links will lead you to it.
  • Tell you if the article is available in print or microform at the Periodicals Window.
  • Automatically fill out an Interlibrary Loan form if the item is not available at Dowling. Just add your name and retrieval information: you can pick up articles at either campus or via email.

Citing your Sources

Proper citation is an important part of the research paper writing process. Improper or lack of citation can be considered plagiarism. Dowling Librarian's have compiled a list of websites that will aid you in the citation proces.

Bibliographic Management Software (EndNote, Procite, ...)

Bibliographic management programs such as EndNote, ProCite, or RefWorks allow you to save and organize your citations into a database of your own.  It is recommended that you search within each library database and then either save your citation list as a text file, or export it directly to your program. If you choose to export, you must be using the same computer on which you have your software installed.

Our most frequently used vendors' databases offer the following options:


Direct export to manager software, or save as a file type that can be then be imported.

The Export icon lets you export citations into EndNote and Refworks, or save them as a text file that can be imported.

Save citations, making sure that you add the extension .txt
Text file can then be imported to software.

Export directly to ProCite, EndNote, Reference Manager, or RefWorks. Also can save as compatible file that can than be imported.

Under Print/Email/Save, the Save options allow you to Export to Bibliographic Software, or save as a plain text file which can then be imported.

Using Databases from Off Campus

Any currently enrolled student, faculty member, or staff of Dowling College can access the Library's subscription databases from off campus using their ID card and a computer with an Internet connection. Clicking on any database link from the alphabetical list, or from the Database Locator, will prompt you for your name and the barcode number from the back of your card. Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions, alumni are not able to access databases from off campus.

Last updated January 10, 2005 by Chris Kretz