Databases: Frequently Asked Questions

Databases: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a research database?

  • a database is an electronic resource that contains references to a wide range of any combination of the following types of sources:
    • serials (journals, magazines, newspapers) NOTE: these are often referred to as periodicals
    • reference books (encyclopedias, dictionaries, companions, handbooks)
    • books (the entire book or chapters)
    • conference proceedings
    • transcripts (from radio and TV broadcasts)
    • visual resources (maps, photographs, drawings, illustrations)
    • grey literature (pamphlets, posters, working papers, bulletins)
  • the databases we use can be either interdisciplinary (covers all subjects), specialized (limited in focus to a single area of study) or may include just one type of publication, such as newspapers

What's the difference between a database and the Internet?

  • Using a database is very different from searching on the web; the only similarity is that they are both accessed electronically on the computer.
  • The information in a database is selected by academic and publishing professionals who review and select dependable, authoritative sources.
  • Although anyone can post a website on the Internet, nobody is in charge of guaranteeing that the information is accurate, objective, and current.

What is the best way to start database research?

  • First, see if there is a LibGuide for your course. If there is, start there. If not, go to Databases to see how the databases are organized and select a few to search.

Can I get to the databases off campus?

  • Yes! After clicking on a database link, you will be prompted for your Coker login and password.  Call Todd Rix at 383-8270 (email: trix @ with details if there are problems.

Are "advanced search" screens only for "advanced" researchers?

  • Absolutely not! Advanced search is more powerful and accurate since it lets you use more search terms in a variety of ways. It ends up saving you time.

Is there a way of getting ONLY full-text articles from a database?

  • There is, but it's not the best way to do research because you will miss out on the articles that Journal Finder will locate for you in other databases!
  • If you're desperate, look for words like "limit your searches" or "full-text only" on the search screen.  Each database vendor offers this in a slightly different manner.

How do "all full-text" databases such as JSTOR differ from other databases?
  • Every citation in JSTOR is accompanied by full text of the article. While this is very appealing, we recommend that you conduct your searches in other databases, and let Journal Finder find the full-text for you. 
  • The reason for this is two-fold: first, other databases, such as Academic OneFile and Academic Search Premier, search THOUSANDS of journals, books, and other sources while JSTOR searches HUNDREDS; second, JSTOR is an ARCHIVE, meaning that it has back issues of journals, most of which are over 5 years old. 

What should I do if I can't get into a database?

  • Try it a little later (this works almost all the time).  If it doesn't, check the library homepage to see if there are temporary technical difficulties with that database.  Then report the problems to the library at 383-8125 (local) or 888-887-4526 (toll free) so we can contact the appropriate technicians. 
  • In the meantime, use a different database that deals with your subject so that you can continue working on your assignment.