Researching Databases

Apr 15, 2016
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Will you: 

Use databases such as JSTOR, EBSCOhost, or GALE to gain access to full-text journal articles, government reports, and academic studies in organized collections. Although the differences between what you can find on the surface web and in the deep web sometimes seem to be exaggerated and are changing, it's still true that the content of databases has undergone a review process and the information is often more reliable than some of the information found on the Internet.

Databases require subscriptions, but don't let that stop you. Most schools already have access to a group of databases. A teacher or librarian will be able to help you find what you need. Also, if you have a public library card, that will also be enough to give you access to a lot of databases. Even a Driver License or a Non-Driver Photo ID in New York State gives you access to many databases at NovelNY, and there is probably something similar in your state. So this is a great time to ask a teacher or a librarian for some help. They might be able to point you to specific databases that will give you easy access to full-text articles that are appropriate for your reading level or the particular subject matter of your inquiry.

Here's one example of what it looks like to use a database search tool: Gale PowerSearch

Try it!

!. Once you find your way into a database, go for it, but be picky. Choose articles that look well-researched (They have long bibliographies), peer-reviewed (They come from a journal), and complex (You’ll have to really work at understanding it, looking up some words, asking questions). And most important choose two or three articles that seem to have a different perspectives on your topic. Find something that challenges your view, something that isn’t the common, mainstream answers to your inquiry question. Find articles that are interesting -- but also ones that you can digest, given your reading level and your level of passion for this topic.

2. Once you’ve found an article that you think will be interesting and will stretch your thinking a bit, download it to your desktop, then add it to a Personal Crocodoc account. If you don’t have one yet, now would be a good time to Sign up at It’s a free service for individual users like us. There’s a lot more you can do later with sharing folders with your teachers and your peers--and putting a link to your current research project in your profile... but for now, let’s just get 2 or 3 articles up in your account, so that you can start annotating them online. You might have to turn an article into a PDF first. If you are using Chrome for your browser, the Chrome extension "Print Friendly & PDF" is an excellent tool for creating PDFs from Web pages. You might also paste an article into a Google Document and add comments for your annotations.

3. After you’ve annotated an article or perhaps when you're still reading, add new vocabulary words to a flashcard set at And finally when you've finished reading an article add transcriptions and reactions to the important parts on a Dialectical Notes form. There’s a Google Template with instructions for what to do in the Guides or you can go to

4. Have fun learning new search strategies within different databases. But keep in mind no matter where you find it, your goal is to end up witn with fascinating studies, reports, and articles for your research project.