Tech Tricks to Being a Better Student: Using Databases

Using digital databases is an easy way of exploring new information on any given subject or topic. Plenty of options exist out there in the digital domain for resources of information, and in this article we've covered a few for your benefit. Schools offering Database Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Getting Familiar with Databases

Considering the wide range of information and material produced by academics over the years, digital databases are a great resource for any student. Becoming familiar with databases, from finding the right one for your needs to learning how to use them to your advantage, is a great step to take.

There are several different kinds of databases, and they are often organized around a specific topic or discipline, collecting studies and other material that targets a certain audience. Some have a broader focus, serving as a collection of journal articles or other academically relevant information. Read on to learn more about how to approach using databases for your academic work.

database server JSTOR

Know What's Out There

There are some popular and prominent academic databases out there, including JSTOR, LexisNexis Academic and EBSCO. You may already know about these databases, and if you do, you've probably used them before. But don't stop there. Casting a wider net is never a bad idea, and you might want to explore a lesser-known database with equally relevant material. Additionally, there might be something out there that's more targeted to the specific subjects you're interested in.

Target Your Focus

If you're looking for a scholarly article as a secondary source for reading you did in, say, a humanities class, you probably shouldn't be looking through a database dedicated to agricultural research. Likewise, if you're looking for a paper about a neuroscience study, you don't want to look in an art history database. You might stumble across something interesting if you poke around in databases that aren't relevant to the information you need, but that isn't really an effective use of time, is it? For the most useful results, you should set your sights on the most logical source of information.

Make Sure You Have Access

Some databases, including popular ones like JSTOR, require a subscription for full access. You might be able to use a database through your school's Internet connection, but if a subscription is required, you won't be able to use it at home unless you can proxy in to your school's servers. Some services, like JSTOR, allow limited access to unsubscribed users, such as the ability to perform searches and see an article abstract. Others don't allow any access to unsubscribed users. If there's a database that you're interested in using and your school doesn't have a membership, you can always ask a professor or librarian if they'd consider buying in.

search database server JSTOR

Search Smart

We went over this before, but a lot of a database's utility comes from your ability to use it properly. After all, you won't be able to find articles if you aren't looking for them in the right way. Check out our article on smart search tips for more details.

Ask Around

If your current repertoire of databases isn't providing what you want, ask around school for suggestions. Classmates, TAs, grad students, librarians, professors - anyone who does academic work is likely to have knowledge about databases. Your peers and instructors might have some insider tips that can help you out.

This is the third article of a series in which the Education Techie shares some tips with students. Previously, the Techie talked about effective searching and shortcuts in MS Office. Stay tuned for more tips!

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