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HIS 300

A guide to HIS 300 research worksheets.

What to look for and where to look

Here is what to look for when you need to use a new database (or website) for research.

A. Content

Questions: What types of sources does this database include?  Just one type of multiple? Are they secondary scholarship, primary sources, or even a mix of both?

How to find the info:  Look for an About option at the top of the page to learn more about the what the database collects.  Sometimes you will find more information by doing a google search for the database by name.  The publisher’s page often has more/different information as it is aimed at convincing libraries to purchase the database.  Also, try doing a broad search to see what types of source types appear in the results.

B. Coverage

Questions for primary sources: Is the database focused on a specific time period?  Does it only include sources form a specific geographical area? 

Questions for secondary sources How broad is the coverage—how many journals or publishers does it include? Does it have the full text of everything or just citations for some (or all) things? 

How to find the info: Look in the same places as for content above.  Especially keep an eye out for lists of journal titles or publishers included in the database’s scope.  These lists often include coverage dates for indexing and full text and even which journals are peer reviewed.  Sometimes the best way to get a feel for date coverage is simply to do some broad searches and then use date and full text limiters see how they change the results.

C. Searching

Questions:  Are there multiple search interfaces (like a basic and advanced)?  How do they differ?  Are there pull down menus?  Facets for limiting your results before or after you search? What is included and how could they be used to improve searching?   Does the database allow for browsing rather than searching or for searching by Subject Headings?  If yes, do either of these features look useful?

How to find the info:  Look around the main database search page to see if there are any browse functions. Look for a Help or Search Tips option in the menus at the top of the page.  Some of them will have an entire section on how to search effectively in the database.  Another approach is to just do a bunch of searches and see what the results look like.  What worked well and what didn’t?  Check the pull-down menus next to the search boxes to see if they offer searching by subject headings (aka 'subject terms' or just 'subject').


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