Online Databases: Subject Specific

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

Subject periodical databases are used in the same way as general periodical databases, but the publications indexed tend to include more scholarly and professional journals and subject magazines focused on a particular subject area.

Some subject periodical databases are very comprehensive, trying to index almost every journal published in a particular field of study, while others are more selective, including a limited number of the more important, less specialized magazines and journals in a subject area.

Selecting and Evaluating Periodical Indexes and Databases
The distinctions between different types of periodical databases often become blurred as more and more varied information and features are added to many databases. As more periodicals become available in full-text, for example, they are often added to indexes that previously only contained abstracts. Likewise, abstracts are now being provided by indexes that did not offer that feature in the past. The number and types of publications covered by many indexes are increasing rapidly so that it is not uncommon to find individual databases that include newspapers, popular and subject magazines, and even some scholarly journals. Many periodical abstracting services covering particular subject areas also include books, dissertations and other documents in their coverage.

It is always important to read a description of how many and what types of sources are covered by a particular index. Scanning the list of periodicals indexed gives the user an even better idea of the type of information provided by an index. Print indexes usually include the list of periodicals they index at the front of each volume. Web database periodical lists are usually available on the Web as well and are usually linked to directly from the database.

Lists of periodicals indexed by a database often do not indicate whether all articles from each of the periodicals are actually indexed. Many databases only index the "main" articles (excluding articles such as columns, reviews, editorials, letters or articles less than a certain length) from a majority of the periodicals (called "selective" indexing) and designate a smaller number of periodicals considered more significant to have all articles indexed (referred to as "cover-to-cover indexing").

Dates of coverage listed for a periodical database can also sometimes be misleading. It is important to check when a database has been most recently updated, but the given date may not indicate the currency of the periodicals actually indexed. The dates of the periodicals covered in a database often vary considerably, depending on the type of database. Online newspapers, for example, are commonly available within a day of their publication--sometimes even the same day--while some academic abstracts often take over a year to index many journals.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Periodical Index or Database

1) Subject coverage: General or subject-oriented? Popular or academic emphasis? Is a list of periodicals indexed available?
2) Type of records: Citation, abstract, or full-text?
3) Dates of coverage: How current? How far back?
4) Extent of articles included: Cover-to-cover or selective?
5) Quality of subject indexing: Is a controlled vocabulary used? If so, is a thesaurus or subject index available? What is the average number of search terms per article?
6) Availability: Is it available at your local library? Can you access it online from home? Is it freely available on the Internet?

Practice using one of the Subject Specific Databases listed below

SIRS Researcher (subjects covered: social issues)
Ethnic NewsWatch (subjects covered: ethnic studies)

SIRS Researcher

What is SIRS Researcher?
SIRS Researcher® is a general reference database with thousands of full-text articles exploring social, scientific, health, historic, economic, business, political and global issues.

What is indexed?
SIRS Researcher® contains articles from 1,500 domestic and international newspapers, magazines, journals and U.S. government publications.

What dates are covered?
Includes articles from 1989 to the present. Charts, maps, diagrams and illustrations accompany many articles.

Practice Using SIRS Researcher Step by Step
1. Click on one of the following links to connect to SIRS Researcher:

On campus
Off campus [library card required]

2. The first screen is the "Welcome Screen"

3. Do a basic subject heading search by typing the phrase "homelessness" in the text box and clicking the "Submit" button.

4. Click on the general subject heading "Homelessness."

5. Scroll through the search results page until you find an article of interest. Click on the blue underlined link to view the full text of the article.

6. From the full text article you can print the article by clicking on the "Clean Copy for Printing" icon or you can email the article to yourself by clicking on the "Email" icon.

7. To go back to the "Search Results" page, click the Back button near the top of the screen.

Ethnic NewsWatch

What is Ethnic NewsWatch?
Ethnic NewsWatch covers news, culture and history from 200 publications of the ethnic, minority and native press.

What is indexed?
More than 7,500 new articles added each month. Searchable in both English and Spanish, with titles in both languages and more than 100,000 articles in Spanish.

What dates are covered?
Nearly 500,000 complete articles dating to 1990. Archival material dating back to the mid 1980s.

Practice Using Ethnic NewsWatch Step by Step
1. Click on one of the following links to connect to Ethnic NewsWatch:

On campus
Off campus [library card required]

2. The first screen is the "Databases Available" screen. From this screen click the "English" link.

3. Do a search for an article by typing the phrase "Armenian Politics" in the text box. Next, click the "Search" button.

4. Scroll through the "Search Results" page and choose a record. Click the article title to view the full text of the article.

5. To print the article, click the "Print" button on the left side of the screen.

6. To go back to the "Search Results" page, click the Back button at 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 106: Introduction to Online Research

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