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ENG 1020 Colley: Databases Overview

Database Basics

Welcome to the wonderful world of database searching! There is a lot of information in this tab, so take your time, study the videos and tutorials, maybe take some notes, and then dive in and get your hands dirty. Even if you have lots of experience searching library databases, you may still learn something new.

You can get to our database list by clicking on this button on CSM Library's home page: 

Find Books or Articles

We have over fifty (50) databases, many of which focus on specific areas of study. The ones you will use most are probably ProQuest CentralAcademic Search Premier, and Credo Reference all of which are general area databases.

What is a database, anyway?

In the context of a library, it usually means a collection of articles which the library pays to access (and allows you to access for free!). Most of these articles cannot be found on the general internet (so Google won't find them). To learn more, watch this video, created by a student at Yavapai College.

Wondering what "peer review" means? Watch this video from the librarians at North Carolina State University.

You're ready to try a basic search! This video walks you through a keyword search in ProQuest Central.

Databases have different names, subjects, and content, but all of them will have these 3 things:

1. A search box for you to enter keywords. 

2. Ways to limit or refine your search results: for example, by date, scholarly articles only, or journal title. 

3. Ways to manage your research: copy, save, email, print, and choose a citation style. 

Not every database stores the full text of an article. Sometimes a database only stores the citation and abstract. This is useful for you to find out if the article is something you want, but not so useful if you decide that yes, you do want it.

But don't worry! CSM libraries has a tool that searches all of our other online databases and resources and connects you to the full article if we have it somewhere else. Look for a link in your results list. In ProQuest databases it looks like this:








Clicking on either "Find a copy" or "Access full text"  will take you to E-journal Portal, our internal list of all the periodicals (journals, newspapers, and magazines) we have access to, in whatever form, electronic or physical, that we have it. In this case, we can see that we have access to this article in several other databases.

Just click the database link. Sometimes you'll be taken directly to that database's entry for the article, with the attached full text. The article will appear to the left of the above box. 


If you are searching for a particular article or journal, it would take forever to search every single database we have. Fortunately, we have a quick index of every single journal, magazine, newspaper, and ebook etc. that we have and where to access it. This is called E-journal Portal:

Our Interlibrary Loan department can get you books that CSM doesn't have in its collection (as you'll see in the page in this guide about books). But did you know we can also get you electronic copies of articles from other libraries?

You can order articles using ILL, our interlibrary loan system. ILL is a great name — it always feels epic when I use it:


There are two ways to order an article using ILL. The first is to click on Find a copy for a citation in a database:

Write down this important info - Journal Title, Article Title, and Publication Date. Remember, what database you found the article.


Next, go to Request an interlibrary loan on the library homepage and click on Request an Article. 

Click there and you will be taken to the request form for an article. Once there fill out the top half of the form with your contact information and the bottom half of the form with all the important info - Journal Title (i.e. Periodical Title), Article Title, Publication date, and Database name - needed to order that article!

Magic! All you have to do is click . Our interlibrary loan staff will get busy finding a library that owns the journal. Librarians from that library will scan the article and send it to your email address! It usually takes about two days. (Make sure you download articles to your computer when they come in) (Oh, and even though the name of the service is interlibrary loan, you don't need to return the articles. They're yours to keep. Books, on the other hand, do need to be returned . . . but you knew that already.)

We can get most articles that are requested this way, and we encourage you to order articles with ILL if we don't have them! It's seamless and free to you. Don't let that perfect article get away!

Advanced Database Use

While searching:

  • Break your search into keywords. Keywords are the most important concepts in your topic and their synonyms. For example:
    • Your topic is: What killed the dinosaurs?
      • Some possible keywords are: dinosaurs, extinction
    • Your topic is: Using drama across the curriculum in a middle school classroom.
      • Some possible keywords are: drama, theater, curriculum, subjects, middle school, elementary, integrated curriculum, etc. 
  • Limit to peer-reviewed journals. That's what your professors expect you to use in your research.
  • Narrow your search. Add a date range, keyword, etc. 
  • Expand keywords with truncation:  bicycl* (retrieves bicycle, bicycles, bicycled, bicycling).
  • Read the abstract of an article to find out if it really is beneficial to your research.
  • Ask for help - call, email or consult a CSM librarian 

Database Searching Tips from CSM Librarians

  • LOOK AT THE WHOLE SCREEN FIRST. Before you start searching in an unfamiliar database, look at the whole search screen first. What search tools are available to you? Are there check boxes, limiters, subject headings, indexes, a link to get help?
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE. Search with only the most necessary keywords from your topic and don't use all of them at once. Example (keywords in italics): What are the effects of global warming on the animals in national parks?  You might want to get more specific and search for:  climate changewildlifeYellowstone
  • FIND A FEW (2-3) RELEVANT ARTICLES. You don't need to start with 20 articles; find a couple of very relevant ones and read those first. You may discover other topics, authors or references or you may decide to change your topic.
  • SEARCH USING SUBJECT HEADINGS.  Browse a database’s Thesaurus or list of Subject Terms to find subject headings relevant to your topic OR use a subject heading link in an article record to search for more articles with that heading. The Subject Headings tab explains it better.

Would you like to find articles about your topic?  Check out this short video about Subject Headings from the amazing librarians at Western University ...


 “Boolean Searching”  uses the words “AND” “OR” “NOT” to limit or expand a search in a database. Most of the time, you will use “AND”.

  • I want articles about adolescents with self-esteem issues. My search strategy is:  self esteemAND adolescents.  This retrieves only articles where ALL these words appear within the database record.
  • I want articles about school administrators, but I don't want to miss any that use the wordprincipals. My search strategy is:  principals OR administrators.  This retrieves articles where either of these words appear within the database record.
  • I want articles about recreational activities, but I'm not interested in hiking.  My search strategy is: recreation NOT hiking. This retrieves articles that include the word recreation, but leaves out the ones that also have the word hiking.
  • I can combine Boolean operators if necessary. If I want articles about administrators of middle schools. My search strategy is:  (principals OR administrators) AND "middle schools".  The parentheses creates a set of article records that have either the word principals or the wordadminstrators. To get the articles about middle schools from within that set, I narrow my search with AND.

In ProQuest databases, My Research can help you to keep track of articles you are interested in and manage articles you find. For more info? Watch the video below. 

Did you know? EBSCO databases have a similar account called MyEBSCOhost.

Do you need to set up a My Research account? Follow the step by step instructions below ...

  • In the section Find Books or Articles on the CSM Library homepage. Click on either Off-Campus Database Access or On-Campus shortcut to Proquest database.

  •  Next use either the off-campus access or on-campus shortcut, from ProQuest's main page click on the ProQuest Guy at the top right of the screen and then Sign into My Research.

  • Find the link to Create a My Research Account.
  • Fill out the form, including password and Click Create account.



CSM libraries subscribe to a ton of ProQuest databases covering a variety of topics and disciplines. Many of the scholarly databases are updated on a regular basis.  You can subscribe to alerts so that you will be emailed with new items matching your preferred searches.

  • Go to the ProQuest main site (from the library homepage) and click "Databases" at the top of the screen to browse the list of databases available.  
  • Select the database(s) of interest.  
  • Go to Advanced Search or Basic Search and create a search that brings back the desired results.
  • Click Save Search/Alert near the top right side of the screen, then Create Alert from the drop-down list.
  • A form will pop up; specify your preferences for the title of the email alert, the frequency and duration, the format, and your email address.

Alerts will start to come to your inbox containing links to the new materials matching your search.

Get Your Hands Dirty!

  1. Think of a topic or question to research. Identify keywords for your topic, include synonyms.
  2. Use ProQuest Central from the CSM Library website. Search with some of the keywords you identified.
  3. Select an article from your results list and open the Detailed Record.
    • Read the abstract.
    • Look at the subject headings.
    • Check for other significant information.
    • The Detailed Record will help you decide if an article is appropriate for your research. Always read the abstract of an article, but also look for other important information such as the language and document type (research article, ERIC Document, book review, conference paper, etc.) 
  4. Use the Thesaurus (hint - use advanced search) to browse for subject headings on your topic. Are they different from your keywords? Try some in a search.
  5. Refine your search by adding limits: peer reviewed, date, subject headings, etc
  6. Go to E-journal Portal and search for Journal of Sport Behavior or a journal or magazine of your choice. Is it online?
  7. Use E-journal Portal to find the full text of this specific article.
    • Holloway, S. L., & Pimlott-Wilson, H. (2013). Parental involvement in children's learning: Mothers' fourth shift, social class, and the growth of state intervention in family life. Canadian Geographer57(3), 327-336. doi:10.1111/cag.12014

Quiz Yourself!