Jessup Playbooks Logo

ENG 111 & 112 Course Playbook

This playbook contains resources and information for ENG 112 students and faculty.

What's a Database?

 database illustration

  • A database is a collection of data optimized for search and retrieval. In other words, a database is any electronic, organized container of information (articles, e-books, streaming video, audio files, etc.), that can be searched.
  • Databases are either general or subject/discipline specific. They can be searched by keyword, author, title, or subject.
  • Databases provide academic level sources suitable for using in academic research and writing.

NOTE: If you are a student in ENG 111, please review Module 3 of the Information Literacy Modules.


Why Use Databases?

Four reasons to use databases

  • Authority
    • Library databases contain works written and published by professionals, with information provided by experts.
  • Quality
    • The items that go into a research database are of higher quality than what's found in the open Web, and are more suitable for academic research.
  • Reliability
    • Because materials that go into a database are of higher quality than those in the open Web, they are more reliable. You still have to examine materials for suitability by applying the CRAAP method.
  • Access
    • Libraries pay to subscribe to databases so you can access millions of top quality materials for free, without hitting a paywall.

Download the Four Reasons handout.

Where to Find Databases at the PVCC Library

To find the databases at the Jessup library, go to the library's home page, scroll down the page, and click the button labeled "Database List," located in the FIND MORE section.  Or go directly to the list from here.


screen shot of the database list section

How to Select the Right Database

  • Select a database based on what you need and what the database covers.
  • Start with a general content database, such as EBSCO or Wiley. Why? Because a general content database covers most topics and has a bit of everything.
  • For more specialized, targeted content, use a database that covers your topic. See the examples below.


Examples of topics paired with specialized databases:

Topic Database
Parkinson's Disease CINAHL
Seatbelt laws Westlaw
The Great Gatsby Gale Literature
Obsessive-compulsive disorder PsycArticles

How to Search Databases

  • Use AND to combine keywords.
    • This tells the database that you want all those words to appear in each of the resulting sources.
    • Examples:
      • adolescents AND sleep AND anxiety
      • United States AND "foreign policy"
      • advertising AND consumers AND choice AND prices
      • teenagers AND self-esteem
  • Find synonyms and related words.
    • Sometimes the words you use for searching don't correspond with the words that are in the sources, so you may not find as many sources as you would like.  For example, you're searching for the word "teen," but the article writers have used "adolescent" or "teenager," or "juvenile."
    • When this happens, brainstorm synonyms and related words and phrases and search using those.  Run searches using synonyms until you find what you need. Researching is a process and it can take time, but the more you practice, the less time it will take.
  • Mine the results for keywords.
    • Look at the results you get and scan them briefly to see what words may appear in them that you have not thought of.
      • Example: you want to write about how genes affect obesity. Your keywords here would be genes and obesity, but you may see other words in the search results, such as genetics, weight gain, body mass index, and others. 
      • You can then run new searches using those words, to narrow down the scope of the results to better fit what you're looking for.

NOTE: Check out this general tutorial on how to search library databases.

Too Many/Too Few Results?

  • Getting too many results?
    • This is probably due to your topic being to broad (general).  If you run an EBSCO search using only the keyword obesity, you get over 860,000 results.  Narrow your topic to make it more specific and more easily researchable, because a well-narrowed topic is easier to research.
    • Let's say you want to write about obesity. Before you start researching, nail down what aspect of the obesity topic are you interested in. Maybe you're interested in researching how carbohydrate load affects obesity rates in teenagers. See the example below for one approach to finding sources.
    • Example:
      • obesity AND adolescence AND carbohydrates
  • Getting too few results?
    • This can be caused by a topic that is too narrow (specific), a topic that is not of interest to researchers, or using the wrong keywords.
      • If your topic is too narrow, make it a bit broader.
      • If your topic is not of interest to researchers, you may need to tweak your angle or find a new topic.
      • If the problem might be keywords, try using synonyms and related words.

NOTE: Need more help finding keywords? Check out this tutorial.

Need Help?