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Access (or search for) Information

Accessing (or searching for) information entails using the

Use the right database(s).

When selecting the right database, consider what format of information you are looking for and what subjects are relevant to your topic. Examples of databases are the library catalog, items listed under databases, and search engines such as Google. A search engine is a website that allows the searching of a database of other websites.

Format - This depends on how current your information needs to be. The below bullets give a general idea about how the format of information relates to its currency; however, there can be overlaps. For example, you may want some historical information (books) that may have caused a current event (newspapers and magazines).

Development of Information after an Event

Event Occurs Information Appears:
Minutes/Hours after Web pages, Television, Radio
Days after Newspapers
Weeks after Magazines
Months after Journals
Years after Books, eBooks

Learn how information develops after an event occurs - Information Cycle - created by Penn State University Libraries

What database to use to find what format?

Subjects - This depends on the topic of your research. The library's databases are classified by subject, by alphabet, and by provider. Using the subject listing, you can select the subject that relates to your topic and view all the databases with that subject. NOTE: Use a general database if your topic doesn't relate to any of the subjects or to begin your research.

Use the right access point(s).

Access points are how you search a database. Most often you can change your access to the database by selecting a point or combination of points from a drop down box next to the text boxes where you enter your terms. Since search engines only have one point (keyword), they can be difficult to focus a search.

Some common access points are:

  • keyword - use any terms but not all results will be relevant,
  • subject - all retrieved results are relevant but must use exact terms or phrases the database applies to describe a particular topic,
  • author - search the database for the works by an author, and
  • title - search the database for works that have terms or phrases in the title.

Use the right term(s).

Think of terms you would use to find information on your topic. Consider synonyms, slang, or regional words. Each database may use different terms but start with what worked in a previous database search. Use Boolean logic (and to narrow, or to broaden, not to exclude) to link the terms together.

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