Starting broad with database research

Searching for particular journals is great when you know which journal you need to use or which journal has the best information for your particular area of research. Some topics, including the topic of anthropology and geography are much too broad to be relegated to a handful of known, high-quality journals. Therefore, it is often better to search multiple databases for particular topics and keywords than it is to seek out individual journals. So, we will search a few select databases using the BPCC Databases by Subject page. While we will only look at a few to get the feel for the interface and searching capabilities, different databases are better for different topics. If you were doing a research project on a topic in criminal justice or nursing, you would consult an entirely different group of databases. While the interface may be exactly the same from GeoRef and Medline because they are produced by the same vendor, the selection of journals and articles will be drastically different as well as the subject terms and topics you could search.

When starting a research project, it is always a good idea to start off broad. While you may get more results than you can manage and some of those results will be off topic, the ranking system of the database will typically put the most relevant articles first by default. Another advantage to starting broad is that it allows you to explore a topic you may be unfamiliar with and expand you vocabulary and ability to articulate you topic. This is of extreme importance in database research because in the early stages of research your are uninitiated into the vocabulary that field of study may use. Knowing the vocabulary of a discipline or topic will allow you to search much more efficiently. You can grab this vocabulary from the records of the articles you view and from certain tools within the database much like the BPCC Online Catalog Tutorial.

So we'll take a look at a few databases to search for a topic related to multiculturalism. Research into another culture can take many facets: you may want to look at their native cultural origins, their religion, their presence or relationship with your own culture, or even some specific aspect of their culture such as the food they eat or the tools they use. Each of these facets represents a different scope of research. However, if you are unsure of which particular facet you are interested in or whether there would be an appropriate amont of available research, it is always a good idea to explore. A good place to explore is Credo Reference database. You can access Credo Reference in a number of ways, searching for by it's name or vendor (both Credo) or by finding it in the Reference topic area of databases by subject.

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While this tutorial will give you the basics on how to access and search a database, each database will offer its own tutorials on how to use its services and interface to best serve your needs. It is a good idea to access these short, informative tutorials when accessing an unfamiliar database for the first time. You can access these various tutorials in a number of ways. The Credo Reference database is called Literati and in the middle of the page is a box entitled: "What is Literati?" that will give you information on the scope, contents and capabilities of the database. There are more tutorials a little further down the page.

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These tutorials will not only teach you how to find and access information within the database, but also how to use that information effectively! These are very valuable tutorials to consult when you are just starting out your research. It is also a good idea to start with a database like Credo because this particular vendor does not view research within the vacuum of its own resources, meaning that not only can you find information within Credo itself, but it will also point you to other research available elsewhere in the BPCC collection. This is a useful feature of Literati as it will identify databases that are certain to contain information on the particular topic that you are researching.

There are several ways you can navigate Literati for inspiration for a topic. If you have no idea which topic you would like to research, you can browse broad categories and topic pages alphabetically by clicking the "Browse Categories" tab directly under the database logo.

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For instance, if you wanted to research the religion of the Muslim People, you can navigate to it by selecting Religion and the alphabetical listing for "I" from the topic page list and selecting "Islam." The Credo database will open up the topic page for the entry on Islam. Or you can simply type your terms in the search box (use auto complete if you wish) and select the appropriate entry from the results list.

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Clicking the icon next to "Start exploring the topic here" will bring you to the topic page. The topic page is slightly different than an encyclopedic entry for your chosen topic. The main part of the topic page will give you basic information about the topic including the main encyclopedic entry that you can access by clicking "Continue Reading" that will expand the entry preview to the entire entry, a dictionary definition and a works cited entry to attribute any information you use from this entry. In addition to that basic information in the main area to the left of the screen, the database also offers a tutorial on determining if a source is of sufficient quality to include in your research (Evaluating Sources on the top right) and a list of other locations you can find information on this topic as well as other related topics within the Credo database to further along your exploration.

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While the topic page will give you direct access to the main entry, which will contain a broad overview of the topic, it will also link you directly to other sources for more in depth and focused research. Credo is great for gaining a good understanding of the broad overview of a topic, it really only serves as your starting point for research. Using the information you gained from the overview of your topic, you can perform searches for information that will give you an idea of the specific details or a specific movements/event within the context of that larger topic. The Credo database will even point you to those other sources of information that can provide specifics.

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Each of those links will provide you direct access to specific books, articles and current news on your topic in which you can string together a pretty comprehensive view of any particular research topic. To focus on the databases however and to take control of your own research direction, the important section is the one entitled "Search Other Library Resources."

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Clicking on any of those links will automatically perform a keyword search for "Islam" in that particular database.