Online Research Resources for Students


Nowadays, students don’t neccessarily have to trudge down to the library to conduct research for all those lovely papers that their professors expect them to write.  Instead, a good majority of their research can now be conducted online. So what kind of information can you find online that will help you in your research?  Where do you go to find that obscure journal article?  Using my super librarian skills, I will impart to you some of the knowledge that I have come to learn so that you too can become a online research master.


When speaking of the term “database”, I am referring to proprietary, subscription-based collections of information typically held by libraries.

Library databases can be one of your best friends when conducting online research.  Most college libraries subscribe to at least the basic databases that you will need – InfoTrac and EBSCOhost – as well as some other specialized ones. 

If you are unsure of what these are, visit your college library’s website.  Usually there are links to search the college catalog, as well as a link to the databases.  They may be simply labled “databases” or “research databases”, or something similar. Once you’ve found it, you’ll likely need to enter in a student ID number, or a library card number.

Databases contain information from a variety of sources, depending on the database.  InfoTrac and EBSCOhost both contain articles from journals and magazines. As well, in addition to having a general database, both also have special, subject-specific databases.  For example, Infotrac also has a database called PsycINFO, which contains information specifically geared towards the psychology and psychiatry fields. Similarly, EBSCOhost has Medical databases, business databases, and so on.

Non-Academically Held Database Subscriptions:

If you don’t find what you need through your college library’s database subscriptions, or are looking for more information, it may be worth checking out what databases your local public library subscribes to.  As a rule of thumb, the largerthe city (and funding), the more databases they will have access to.  Smaller public libraries, and those in rural areas tend not to have as many due to the high cost of subscriptions.

The database holdings of your public library may also be dependent on the focus of the library.  If the library’s main focus is on providing popular titles and books, then they will still have some subscriptions, but likely not as many as a public research library that has a focus on providing quality academic research materials in addition to the popular titles.

Again, these databases are typically very easily found by visiting your public library’s website and clicking on links that say “databases” or “research databases”.  Here, you will probably need to type in your library card number, so make sure you have that on hand. 

Depending on the database that you use, you can find anything from genealogical information to biographies to obituraries to newspaper articles from around the country or world.

Non-Database Online Research:

Another great source of finding scholarly research materials is through Google Scholar.  Google Scholar is a specialized search engine brought to us by the makers of Google Web Search that ONLY searches through reliable, scholarly information.  It is often the easiest way to search because you don’t need to learn the ins and outs of a specific database.  With Google Scholar, you can just search like you would doing a regular web search.  It’s really easy.  However, there is a downside.  They don’t seem to have quite as many scholarly holdings as some databases do, so it is good to get some information from, but for thorough research I would highly recommend also consulting a database at some point.

Finding a Book that You Need that Your Library Doesn’t Own:

If you are also using books as part of your research, which you probably should, first check your school or local public library’s catalog to see if they own the particular titles you need.  If they do not own it, there’s a great database called WorldCat that most libraries subscribe to.  Just type in the title or author of the book (or other search terms), and you can view library holdings of the book from around the world.  You might find that another library near you has it, or one a little farther away that you can have your local librarian obtain for you through an Inter-Library Loan.

Need help?  Ask a Librarian.

If you are not finding what you need on your own, or are slightly confused, you can always ask your librarian for help.  They’re more than glad to help out, and can often find you additional resources that you might not have even thought of yourself.

Many libraries offer an online chat reference service, whereby you wouldn’t even need to step foot in the library.  They can even make copies of pages of books and send them via email to you, or fax them.  As well, they can help you find the information you need online through databases and the worldwide web, and are more than able to help guide you in learning how to use the databases yourself. 

If you want in-person help, just stop in your library and ask a librarian.  We don’t bite, honest.  And we probably don’t have anything better to do anyways! 

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