Frequently Asked Questions

What is a database?

For libraries, a 'database' is a catch-all name for a sort of specialised website the provides information on a topic. These sites are not part of the regular Internet and require a subscription, which the library pays for. They contain everything from collections of magazine articles to lessons in various languages.

Why should I use a database?

Databases offer materials that are not available on the Internet and many go into much greater depth than websites. Also, their content is managed to insure quality. This means that you can be sure that the health information or auto repair diagrams are coming from an authoritative and reviewed source. If you're doing research for school, database materials typically count as non-Internet sources when it comes to requirements to have academic or professional sources.

How can I log in to a database?

First, click on the name or logo of the database you want to use. If you are in the library, you should automatically be sent to the database's home page. If you are outside the library, a popup box will ask for a user name (your library card) and a password or PIN (typically the last four digits of your phone number).

Why can some databases only be used at the library?

Where possible, the library gets subscriptions that include remote access. However, in some cases the provider does not offer that option, or adding it is extremely expensive. Fortunately the vast majority of databases are not limited this way.

How do I cite things I find in a database?

Most article databases, such as the Ebsco sources available through Inspire, now have a "Cite" button. When you click this it will offer a pre-written citation in all of the common styles. For other databases, we suggest checking with the Online Writing Lab for guidance.

Can I print or save what I find?

Most databases allow you to print off the text and images they offer. The newspaper and magazine databases also allow you to save most articles, or even email them to yourself. 

There's too many results! Or not enough!

For both problems, think about the search terms that you used. You might narrow down the  results by being more specific - for example, if you start with just "floods" try "flood control" or "floods and Indiana". You can do the reverse if you get too few results. It's always a good idea to vary your terms a little when doing in-depth research. "Firefighting" and "Fire prevention" will have some overlap but will also have unique articles.

For narrowing down search results further, try using the "limit or refine search" options. You might choose to see articles published within a certain time frame. Do you want only the newest articles, or do you want to see something historical? If you are doing research for a class, your instructor may want only academic or 'peer reviewed' articles. There is a check box to show only those.

Why can't I see the entire article I'm trying to look at?

This comes up sometimes with the magazine and journal databases found on Inspire. Unfortunately, not every article is available with the entire text. This is especially common with advanced academic journals and older volumes of a publication. This is usually because the publisher has not made a full copy available or the material has not yet been digitized. In these cases, only a summary and the citation details such as date and page numbers are shown. To avoid this, click "full text" when doing your search. This option is usually found below the search bar in the box labeled "Search Options". If you have already done a search, look to the left to find it with the filtering options.

If you really need to get your hands on an article that's available only as a citation, you can request it using Interlibrary Loan. Just be aware that it can take a week or two for it to arrive, and that some libraries charge fees for scanning or copying.