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Library Research Overview: Using Databases

This libguide is one-stop shopping for all your basic library how-tos.


TCC Article Databases on the library homepage are the best tools to use to find newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. Visit to get started.

Using Library Databases

What is a database? 

The INTERNET is good for brainstorming and beginning your search.  Web searching can help you find current news, discover synonyms that relate to your topic, and define specialized terms.

DATABASES are special -- they are collections of information (usually articles from magazines and scholarly sources) made available through paid subscriptions.  Databases are very valuable because they have tools to help you focus your search and provide access to sources not freely available online.


Off-Campus Note: If you are using a computer outside the TCC network, you will be redirected to a login page after you select one of the database services. Enter your WebAdvisor username and password. If you have problems signing on, contact the library staff for assistance.

expanded databases by subject menu with multi-subject databases highlighted

How do I pick a database? 

The TCC Libraries provide access to over 150 databases that include articles, videos, and images on just about any topic imaginable. They are organized by subject area to help you select one that is most appropriate for your search.

The databases listed in the Multi-Subject category are general databases that are useful for a variety of subjects.  These databases typically have overview articles and simple browse functions to help you begin searching if you don't know where to start.

listing of database collections from library homepage

Can I search more than one database at once? 

Select a vendor name in the Database Collections category of the library databases page to search all databases provided by that specific vendor. For instance, click on EBSCOhost to retrieve a list of all the EBSCOhost databases to which the TCC Libraries subscribe, and you can search MasterFile Search Premier, Academic Search Complete and Business Source Premier at the same time by checking the box next to each title.

Each service is a little different, but once you have used them you will begin to see that the basic idea of keyword searching can be applied almost anywhere.

Search Tips

Too much? Too little? 

Let's pretend you want to find information about automobile accidents. Here are some search tips you can use to get better results. You can use one or two of these, or get really fancy and use all of them. 

  • Keep it simple.  Using just a few keywords or concepts yields more results.
    Ex: automobile accidents
  • To be more precise, put key phrases in quotation marks.
    Ex: "automobile accidents"
  • Too many results?  Not all on your topic? Try adding another search term with the connector AND.
    Ex: "automobile accidents" AND teenagers
  • Too few results on your topic? Try adding another search term with the connector OR.
    Ex: "automobile accidents" AND (teenagers OR adolescents) note use of parenthesis to keep concepts together
  • Getting unrelated topics? Try eliminating a word with the connector NOT.
    Ex: "automobile accidents" AND (teenagers OR adolescents) NOT motorcycles

diversity in higher education journal cover next to people magazine cover

How do I know if a resource is scholarly?

Scholarly Sources:

  • are often written by professors, researchers, and experts in the field with advanced degrees
  • are written for other scholars, professionals, and students
  • have a list of references 
  • use technical language of the field
  • often provide research findings, statistics, and literature reviews

diversity in higher education journal cover next to people magazine cover

What about popular sources, like magazines?

Popular Sources:

  • are for the general population
  • avoid technical terminology and use easy-to-understand language
  • usually do not have bibliographies or references 
  • are often written by staff writers with little specialized knowledge
  • are written for entertainment and general knowledge

Video Tip

What are Databases and Why You Need Them (2:34)
Courtesy Yavapai College Library

Video Tip

Scholarly vs Popular Sources (2:06)
Courtesy McMaster Libraries