Discovering Library Resource using the BPCC Online Databases

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What is a database?

Much like the BPCC Online Catalog, the BPCC Online Databases will allow you to search for information resources held by BPCC Library. Where the Online Catalog will allow you to search the titles, authors and topics of the books, magazines and videos in print and on the shelves in BPCC Library as well as electronic books available online, the BPCC Online Databases will allow you to search the contents of electronic journals right from your home computer or one here at BPCC. The benefits of searching for information in the Online Databases are that you will be able to find resources organized in much the same way as the Online Catalog and instantly access the majority of the contents right on your screen.

The different levels of database contents can get a little confusing so remember that the customer, in this case BPCC library, contacts a vendor which supplies a database which is made up of a list of journals which publishes articles. The database vendor then takes those articles and provide you with a record that tells you which In the database you are searching for those records which allow you to read those articles directly on your computer screen.

Got all that? Here's a flow chart!

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Accessing database contents

You can access the contents of the BPCC online databases in a number of ways. You can use the drop down menu on the BPCC Library homepage to access databases by subject, title, vendor, free or see a comprehensive list of the journals available in our databases by hovering your mouse over "Databases" on the navigation panel on the left side of your screen.

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Or you can click on the "Databases" link to go to another webpage where you can navigate the offerings with a few more options.

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These are the various ways you can browse the contents of the BPCC electronic journal offerings. These links correspond to what is available in the dropdown menu. Clicking the appropriate link in either area will take you to the exact same place.

Accessing database content from home

At the top of each Database page, you will notice the blue text of a link that says "login assistance."

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This link is very useful for when you are accessing databases from a computer away from the BPCC network. Namely, when you are in the comfort of your home, the database you are trying to access has no idea you are a BPCC student. Since these electronic resources are only available to current BPCC students, you will need to login to access the content. Logging in is very easy; after selecting the database you want to access as normal (which we will cover later in this tutorial) your computer will ask you to log in with a User ID and a PIN number. The login assistance page will tell you what that ID and number should be.

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The login is tied to an individual user, so you will need the barcode number on the back of your Campus Wide ID card and your 6 digit birth date to use as the password. After you login, you will be able to access all of the contents of these databases.

 

Database by Subject

Most students will typically use "Databases by Subject" which will divide each database by general topic area covered in any given database.

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Each subject area is a hyperlink to a specific location on the "Database by Subject" webpage. There will be some overlap as databases such as Academic Search Complete and CQ Researcher will cover multiple disciplines. As typical of most topic divisions, some will be very specific and others will be more general in nature. For instance, under the Allied Health link you will encounter a database called Medline which will just present journals and articles written in and about the medical field. This is a specialized database that covers in-depth a single topic. While you may encounter articles covering such topics as nursing, physical therapy, pathology, pediatrics, etc., all of these articles will fall under the health and medicine topic area. We mentioned in our library tour and other online tutorials that in order to get a broad survey on a variety of topics, you can visit reference sources that are meant to be referred to rather than read. These cover a variety of broad subject areas. Referencing this sort of basic, introductory level information is no different in a database. If you click on the "Reference" hyperlink, it will bring you to the databases that contain those easy to read entries.

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Some good databases in this subject area to start exploring a topic with are Credo Reference, Oxford English Dictionary, World Book Advanced and Funk & Wagnall's New World Encyclopedia. Each database has its own collection of entries and articles although there is some overlap. You should never limit yourself to just one database when researching a topic as you may miss some crucial and important information. Exploring these more generalized sources is a good starting point.

At some point during your research, you may want to find more in depth information on a subject. In a research project where you are seeking sources on other societies and cultures, you could view a general overview in an online encyclopedia or atlas or search for more specific information in databases tailored to that particular topic. The subject areas of Religion, Geography, Sociology and History would be good groups to delve deeper. For more current information on different cultures, you could also try Current Events and Journalism and News. Each of these subject areas will help you find information that is closely related to you primary subject.

Databases Alphabetical by Title and Databases by Vendor

Sometime you may need to access a database by a certain title or vendor. For instance, the database publishers, the people who compile the information that is covered within the topic area of a particular database, will put together several such databases on a variety of topics. Each database will have it's own unique information but will be linked by the interface (they way you search) depending on the vendor. You may favor one vendor over another because they have better results, look better or are easier to use.

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Some vendors will have several databases such as EBSCO which supplies over 50 databases alone and Gale which supplies 5 searchable databases or some which will just offer the one such as CQ Researcher, Credo and JSTOR to name a few. The benefit of searching by vendor is that if you know an article you are looking for is in an EBSCO database, or you simply like EBSCO's selection over the other, you can perform a search across ALL EBSCO databases instead of each one individually!

Simply check the box marked "Select/deselect all"

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And you can search all 50+ databases at once.

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You may also select individual databases by their titles. This can come in handy when you know exactly which database you want to access. For instance, if you instructor points you to a specific article that you can find in a specific database, you can easily navigate there using the Alphabetical by Title list rather than trying to determine which subject area that database in question falls under. Or say you found an article initially in GeoRef that you would like to access again

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Accessing individual journal titles in online databases

In addition to grouping databases by vendor and subject, BPCC library also supplies a completely searchable list of all individual journal titles that can be found in the online databases. You can search these journal titles by title, publisher and subject/topic areas.

You can access this list by selecting A to Z Electronic Journal List back on the Databases and Index webpage or selecting "Journal List" from the Databases dropdown menu.

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The A to Z list is useful in a number of ways. If you are looking for a particular title that you know is a good source of information for your particular topic but are unsure of which database you can find it in or whether BPCC even subscribes to it, you can search the list for that particular title. You can also search by subject/topic areas or simply browse the journal list/topic areas using the alphabetical menus.

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From this primary search interface you can browse or search for particular titles and subjects. When searching for journals that will contain information of other cultures, you may want to try a subject search for "geography" or "anthropology" or, you may want to see if BPCC has electronic access to one of the more popular anthropological publications: National Geographic.

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Keeping the search in the title area, I was able to easily find that BPCC subscribes to the electronic version of National Geographic and I can find back issues to 1995 in 5 separate databases. You'll note at the end of the descriptions concerning which years BPCC holds it says "Embargo: 3 months." This means that you will not be able to access the most current edition of National Geographic. So if you are hoping to access the July 2012 issue in July of 2012, the most current electronic issue you may access is April 2012. In such cases and in such the case of a popular title such as National Geographic, you can search the catalog (see Catalog Tutorial) to see if we have the most recent edition in the library (Hint: we do!).

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Another feature of the search you performed is that not only will it return the title you are searching for but it will also give the particular topic or subject area that the title falls under. So if you are interested in accessing more titles that cover the same areas of interest as National Geographic, all you have to do is click on the blue text next to "Subject" at the bottom of the item, and the system will automatically search for similar titles:

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As you can see, the system brought back 648 journal titles that share a similar topic. You can browse through the list and see exactly which titles they are, which databases they are located in and which volumes and issues you have access to through BPCC. Often times your instructors will mention high quality journals in your field of study. You can use A to Z to very easily find out whether you have access to those particular titles!

Once you have chosen your particular journal you can view the access to the contents simply by clicking on the database you prefer to search. In this case, I have selected the journal National Geographic in Academic Search Complete database.

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Viewing this record, you will note that while the link you clicked to get to this page said that access was available from 1995 to the present with a 3 month embargo, the date range actually extends beyond that. If you look in the middle of the record, you will notice two date ranges: bibliographic records and full text. The 1995 to present range actually refers to the full text offerings, those articles that you can access, download and read in their entirety directly on your computer screen. This is good for you because it means instant access to the contents. However, the bulk of the contents of National Geographic are not available in full text immediately. 1888 to 1994 are searchable, meaning that you can get an idea of the title and topics of those particular articles, but they are not readable, meaning that you have no direct access to the text of the article through this database. Bibliographic is simply information about the text in question. If you want to access the contents of these years, you will have to search for them through other methods. If you would refer back to the record for National Geographic in our catalog, you will notice that we have back issues to 1906 available physically through the BPCC Library. If you need an article prior to 1906, the library staff can find and obtain a copy for you through our InterLibrary Loan Service. Simply fill out the web form with all the information you have about a title in the fields, and we will find it for you in another library. You can also do this with books.

You can either browse the journal by years and issues by expanding the collapsible menu denoted by a plus sign (+) next to the date, or you can search the contents of the journal by using keywords or searching the topic areas through subject terms by clicking the "Search within this publication" link at the top-right of the record.

 

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.

Narrowing your search

Choosing any of the databases from Credo's other library resources list, such as Academic Search Complete, will open that database for your use.

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However, you are now moving from a database that specializes in broad information to a database that supplies many resources that cover a wide spectrum of specific and specialized information. As a result, the basic keyword search for "Islam" that Credo performs for you in Academic Search Complete will produce more results than you can reasonably weed through on your own.

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Therefore, it will be necessary that you begin refining your results and narrowing your search. You can do this in a number of ways using the tools that database provides for you or by reading some promising articles and gathering new search terms. The second method will likely be reasonable after your exploration in a database like Credo or CQ Researcher that specializes in topic overviews. However, each database has its own language that, although very similar to other databases, may require a bit of digging to discover.

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You can discover this language by using the panel on the left hand side of the page. Towards the bottom is a collapsible menu option for the "Subject." As mentioned before in other tutorials, the subject is the specific term used to describe what a sources is about. Searching for "Islam" as a keyword will bring back results for everything that mentions Islam, even if it is just in passing. However, searching the same term as a subject will bring back results only for those articles that are about Islam in some way, shape or form. However, this can still be pretty broad because, during the course of your exploration, you may find that Islam and the Muslim People make up a rich and complex topic full of history, beliefs, traditions and discrimination. You may want to research the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, explore the origins of the religion through the teachings of Muhammad, outline and escribe the Pillars of Islam, examine their religious limitations on their diet and the types of food they eat, look into the differences between their actual beliefs and what other cultures perceive their beliefs to be, look into the Muslim diaspora and how the countries they emigrate to accept them, Muslim beliefs and their impact on current foreign relations, examine the controversies of extremism within the Islam faith or even look into the historical strife between Muslims and Christians through events like the Crusades among many, many other topics. A research project on Islam alone may be too broad for the amount of time and space you have but any of these more narrow, focused topics. By expanding the menu for "Subject" and electing "Show More" you will access the list of individual topics that you can find within those 25749 results.

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From this list and the list of various topics mentioned earlier, you can take a social, cultural, religious, historical, biographical, political or even literary view of the topic of Islam. The more subjects you select, the smaller the selection of articles you will have. So let's say you are interested in the social aspects of Islam within the last decade as it relates to the primary religious text on the Islam faith. From the list you can select the subject terms "social aspects" and "koran" and click the green update button. Next, you can limit your results to the last 10 years by selecting the publication date slider, and sliding it over until you have a date range of 10 years prior to the current date and selecting the green update button.

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Making those selection to limit your search has reduced the available results by over 25000 articles.

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This indicates that you have a search for the keyword "Islam" limited to the subjects of "koran" and "social aspects" and published within the last 10 years. 667 results may still be a bit much and there are ways to limit those results.

Boolean limiters

The reason the search produces 667 results with the subject limiters of "koran" and "social aspects" is because of Boolean Logic. Boolean Logic allows you to separate or join concepts when searching a computer database. In the search above, the terms "koran" and social aspects" are treated as "koran" OR "social aspects." Combine this with the term "Islam" and you have results that deal with Islam and the koran solely as well as those that deal with Islam and social aspects solely. The articles in this search do not necessarily have be about all three terms to be returned.

Boolean operators are both limiters and extenders to searches and and are defined through the use of the terms AND, OR and NOT. Imagine you are ordering ice cream and are given the options of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. If you order "vanilla OR chocolate OR strawberry" you will get them all individually. If you order "vanilla NOT chocolate NOT strawberry" you will get only vanilla. If you order "vanilla AND chocolate NOT strawberry" you will get a vanilla and chocolate swirl. If you order "vanilla AND chocolate AND strawberry" you will get all three in the Neapolitan flavor.

OR is used to be more comprehensive in searching. In order to cover a lot of bases in terms, you can use multiple terms to describe the same thing. If you are not sure what is the best term for child is to use multiple terms to cover your bases: "child OR children OR juvenile OR kid OR youth." So the database will then return articles that mention all of those terms. However, if you use the Boolean AND it will only bring back articles that deal with ALL of those terms combined.

So let's see how the search behaves with those Boolean operators. You can use any combination and any number of terms, but for the sake of simplicity, let's remove the "Islam" from our search and focus on "social aspects" and "koran." Using the advanced search feature, you can submit multiple terms and select the boolean phrase from a drop down menu. Since "social aspects" and "koran" are subject terms or portions of subject terms, we will search the subject terms only by selecting "SU Subject Terms" in the "in" drop down menu. This allows you to search any field including title, publication, author, all text (keyword), etc.

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In this instance the OR extends the search to mean anything that is on the subject of social aspects even if it has nothing to do with Islam or the Koran and all those results that have to due with the Koran but not with social aspects. While there will be some overlap, 44000 results will have nothing to do with your topic of social aspects of the koran.

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In this instance AND limits the search to just those articles that deal with the social aspects of the Koran. These 6 articles will be very closely related to your topic and you will probably be able to use all 6 of them in your research.

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In this instance NOT limits the search concerning these two terms and only will return results that deal with social aspects EXCLUDING all mentions of the Koran. None of these 45036 results will help you in your topic.

 

Choosing an article

Once you have a good results list to work with, you can select articles that are appropriate to your topic. In this instance, the first result of the "social aspects AND koran" search is an article explaining the Islamic worldview and understanding of basic principles of the religion. If your aim is to explore and understand another culture, this article could be invaluable to you. Selecting the title will bring up the record for the article where you will have plenty of options.

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You can access the entire article and view it on your screen by selecting the PDF Full Text, or you can read the abstract to see if opening the PDF is even worth the effort. You can save the PDF to an external disk or simply save it to a research folder by creating an account. You can select the email option and email the full article to yourself along with a citation that you can plug into you bibliography or works cited page of your research paper. You can copy the permalink to another document and simply plug that link into your URL bar and always be able to access this page. Most importantly, during the early stages of research, you can discover additional language and terms to search. The subject terms and author supplied keywords, when used to construct new searches, will lead to more topical articles to give you a more comprehensive view. It a good idea to remove one or more of your initial search terms to retrieve more results on subsequent searches.

 

Exporting Research

Each database you visit will operate a bit differently in terms of saving your research so that you will not have to find it within the database again.

Email is perhaps the most effective method but will not work for all. Once you are in the record for the article you wish to save, you can email it to yourself by selecting "E-mail" in the tools menu.

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Simply fill out the webform and the article will be delivered to your email. Two important things to note from this form are the checkbox for PDF as separate attachment. This will allow you to view the article as it appears in the database. The citation format will allow you to choose between several formats for your paper. Choose the appropriate format and the email will contain a works cited/bibliography entry that you can select and copy to your paper. You can choose between AMA, APA, Chicago/Turabian and MLA among others.

To get a good idea of what these citations will look like, simply select the "Cite" option in the tools menu and identify your chosen citation format.

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It is a good idea to compare these citations to an official style guide assigned as a class text, in our Library collection or an online resource.

Sometimes, your instructor will want you to include a URL, or a webaddress, in any citation from an electronic source such as the internet or a database. In order to give your instructor the correct URL, you must copy the address from the permalink location.

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The URL from the address bar will eventually time out and will not lead the the article any longer. The permalink will always lead back to the article.

You can also save research within the database by creating an account and adding articles to your folder in the tools menu using the "save" tool in the menu or even save the article directly to your external storage device, such as a USB key, thumbdrive or external harddrive, by opening the PDF and using the save feature on your PDF reader. Locate your device in the directory and save your research in your chosen folder.

 

Further Assistance

While each database will be different and offer different tools, they all will function in basically the same way. A database will often offer tutorials on how to use it's unique interface, so upon opening a database for the first time, be sure to seek out and view those tutorials.

You can also:

Visit the Reference Desk in the BPCC Library during hours of normal operation.

Call the Library at 678-6275 or the reference desk at 678-6423.

Email the reference librarian at refdesk@bpcc.edu or contact your subject librarian directly.