Online Databases: Newspaper Articles

1) Magazine and Journal Articles
2) Newspaper Articles
3) Literature Resource Center
4) Subject Specific Databases
5) Quiz

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

In their news reports, newspapers provide firsthand accounts of current events. In editorials and opinion pieces, they present diverse points of view on current and controversial issues.

Firsthand accounts (descriptions of events by people with direct experience of those events) or any other information in its original form are considered primary sources. Aside from news reports, other examples of primary sources include diaries, letters, interviews, original artwork, statistical data that has not been analyzed and the first report of a research study in a scientific journal.

Any information that is a retelling, interpretation, or analysis of a primary source -- that is, something new based on reading or hearing a primary source -- is a secondary source. A secondary source is one step removed from the event. In newspapers, articles that analyze current issues or trends, or reviews of arts and entertainment, are secondary material.

Newspapers are excellent sources for topics that deal with current issues, and newspapers from previous time periods are excellent sources for historical topics.

Newspaper Indexes & Databases

Newspaper databases help you find articles on specific topics. Just like magazine and journal databases, newspaper databases index newspaper articles by subject and also allow for keyword searching. Newspaper databases may include abstracts and full-text databases of single newspapers, or they can include abstracts and full-text articles for a selection of several, even hundreds, of different newspapers.

Most major, regional and specialized newspapers have Web sites that include some form of full-text database. Newspapers' Web sites commonly make at least some, if not all, of the articles in an issue available for free the same day they are published in print. These newspaper Web sites do not, however, usually provide a complete database of all articles in back issues going back very far in time. In most cases, access is free, but the time availability -- how far back in time issues are accessible -- varies from just a few weeks to several years.

Some newspapers on the Web (such as the Wall Street Journal) are now charging for accessing the full-text of articles. A few, including the New York Times, do not charge for access, but require users to register in order to gather demographic and marketing information. A few of the major newspaper sites are:

San Francisco Chronicle
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
San Jose Mercury News
Washington Post

Many other national and international newspapers are available on the Web. There are several Web directories of newspapers, including:

Internet Public Library Newspapers

"Premium" Newspaper Databases

To be able to do comprehensive searching of back issues of newspapers, you usually need to use "premium" (proprietary) databases, usually through a library or school. Some of the same companies that produce premium magazine and journal databases also produce newspaper databases. These often include complete full-text coverage going back at least several years.

College of San Mateo Library subscribes to several newspaper databases, including InfoTrac Custom Newspapers and LexisNexis.

Practice Using InfoTrac Custom Newspapers Step by Step

1. Go into InfoTrac Custom Newspapers.

2. Do a keyword search for Genetic Engineering. Click the "Search" button.

3. Scroll through the results and choose a record. Click on the article title to view the entire article.

4. To print or email an article, click on the appropriate icon in the box on the right.

5. You will see subject headings at the left of the page.  Click on any of these for other articles on that subject.

5. To go back to the search results page, click the "Results" link near the top of the screen.

Adapted from:
Canada College, LIBR 120: Information Competency
College of San Mateo, LIBR 105: Online Research Skills
Skyline College
, LSCI 100: Introduction to Information Resources

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