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Research Tutorial

Choosing a Database

In Databases: An Introduction, we showed you how to find a list of databases that are relevant to your topic. But that still leaves you with a number of different choices. So how do you know which database to start with?

Most databases fall into two categories:

  • General databases
  • Subject-specific databases

General databases cover many subject areas in one place. Subject-specific databases focus on one particular subject area. You can read the descriptions of the databases to get a sense of if it is general or subject-specific (sometimes the name of the database will give you a clue, too!).

This is an example of a general database:

Screenshot of Academic Search Premier listing in database list. Description shown with all disciplines circled.

These are examples of subject specific databases:

Screenshot of two database listings from database list. ABI/INFORM Collection description is shown with business and management circled. Psycinfo description is shown with psychology circled.

So which should you use? Well, ideally, you'll use both types. General databases are a really good place to start your research. Because they cover lots of subject areas, you can be fairly confident that your search will turn up something. However, as you do more research on your topic, you may need to turn to the subject-specific databases to fill in holes or to drill deeper into your subject.

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