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InfoSkills for Social and Behavioral Sciences

InfoSkills @ TiU

Library databases

What is a library database?

You'll see the word 'database' a lot when working through the InfoSkills tutorial, so let's be sure you know what a database is.

A database is a collection of information, specially organized for rapid search and retrieval by a computer. You already use a database when you search for songs in Spotify, friends on Facebook, or books on Bol.com. 

A library database includes information about credible documents such as articles from scholarly journals, professional journals, newspapers, or magazines. Some library databases also include information about (e-)books or informally published sources such as working papers and reports.

INOTEI
The full text of publications may or may not be included in a database.

Records & Fields

  • Databases are comprised of records representing individual items, for instance scholarly articles. Articles (and, depending on the database, other types of sources) that can be found in a database are called 'documents'. 

  • Database records contain fields which describe the item. Each field represents a single bit of information about the item, such as the year of publication. 

    Field names may vary, but in library databases the following fields are common:

    • all fields
    • full text
    • title
    • author
    • source/publication/publication name (used for journal titles)
    • publication year
    • publisher
    • abstract
    • keywords (often provided by authors)
    • subjects/descriptors (words or phrases that are used in a database to tag similar documents). 
    • publication type (e.g. journal article)

Example record

Here's a record from the database PsycINFO:

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How do articles end up in database search results?

Watch this 2.28 minute video.  

Source: North Carolina State University Libraries. Published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.