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College Writing Library Tutorial: Databases

What is a Database?

Databases are organized collections of information.  Library databases provide access to a wide range of information.  Most are citation databases providing information about what articles are in certain periodical titles.  Often there is an abstract or a summary of the article, and sometimes you can access the full-text of the article from a database.

EMU also has databases that provide access to films, images, reference works, dissertations and other types of information.

The EMU databases link provides access to a list of all the databases to which EMU subscribes.

Why Would I Use a Library-supplied Database?

Q. Why can't I just use Google or another Internet search engine to find resources?

A.  One reason to use library-supplied databases is that these provide access to credible resources for academic work.  Google and other Internet search engines may turn up hundreds of thousands of hits on a topic, but many of the resources are not acceptable for quality academic work.

Many of the library databases are specific to a particular discipline or subject area.  Students working in these areas need to know about the subject specific resources.  

Not only do these library databases provide access to citations and abstracts, but many provide access to full-text resources as well.  These resources are not available to the general public for free through Internet search engines. 

For resources not available in full-text, the library can provide links to interlibrary loan.

Q. What about Google Scholar?

A. Google Scholar does search more scholarly resources including books and journal articles. However you will find you will not be able to access content that may be available through the library.  

EMU Database by Title

A listing of all the EMU databases.

Types of Databases

Library Catalogs

Library catalogs, like EMU's list the holdings of individual libraries.  They give information on what items are on the shelf and what items are checked out.  Until recently library catalogs only provided citation and holdings information, now you can access much of our ebook and streaming video collection as well. 

WorldCat is a list of holdings by libraries world wide. is freely available to anyone.  To use Worldcat for interlibrary loan login to EMUShare with your EMU email and password.  You can then search and request books from there.

General Periodical Databases

Databases such as Academic Search Complete are general or multidisciplinary databases.  They provide access to periodical literature in many subject areas. They also index both scholarly journals and popular magazines.  They are often a good place to start your research.

Subject Specific Databases

There are many databases that index materials in a specific discipline.  Many times these databases index more than just periodical literature. They often provide information on dissertations, books and book chapters as well as book reviews.  Students should learn which databases cover their discipline or major. Here are a few titles.

Databases by type of resource
Some databases provide access to specific types of resources.  A few of these include:

Publisher sites and other full-text databases

Many publishers now provide access to their resources through their own websites or databases.  Many of these do not provide any type of subject searching.  You can refine searches to specific fields like the abstract or titles to limit your results. 

  • Wiley Online Library and Sage Journals publish content in lots of areas.  EMU does not have access to everything on these sites.
  • JSTOR - JSTOR is an organization with a mission to provide a trusted digital archive of academic journals.  They are beginning to provide access to current content as well. EMU subscribes to all the Arts and Sciences collections and the Life Sciences Collection.
  • ScienceDirect - a scientific database - EMU does not subscribe to this resource, but the publisher has made it possible to search and view citations and abstracts. Articles may be purchased, but we encourage EMU students and faculty to use interlibrary loan instead.

Subject Guides

Use the individual subject guides to find resources in specific disciplines.