Locating Sources
with Library Databases

While the word database may refer to any electronic dataset, in college it is commonly used to refer to licenced search systems that locate sources of information, especially articles.

News articles from newspapers and other news media chronicle events around their time of publication. They are useful in choosing and illustrating topics dealing with current events. Old articles provide a glimpse into history as it happened and can be useful in projects of a historical nature.

Magazine articles provide stories, news analysis, product reviews and other types of essays written for the general public (popular magazines) or for a particular trade group (trade magazines). They can be useful in choosing and illustrating a topic.

Articles in academic journals introduce and scrutinize research in specific fields. Before publication, they go through a review by qualified individuals, a process known as peer review. Because of this, they are expected to be highly authoritative and constitute prime material to weigh arguments. Their specialized nature, however, often makes their language very technical and their topics very narrow.

Southwestern subscribes to quite a few databases so students and faculty have access to both the bibliography and the full text of the scholarship published in journal articles as well as the news, analysis and entertainment provided by articles in newspapers and magazines.

You can search most of these databases by using the PowerSearch box at the top of this page. You will see that box in every single page of the library website. Some very helpful databases however have to be accessed directly. The Adventist Periodical Index, which covers articles in Adventist magazines and journal,s is one of them.

Selecting articles for an academic project begins with understanding the project's purpose and requirements. The best articles are relevant to the project's purpose and meet its requirements. Here we focus on selecting articles to weigh arguments, but these criteria could also be useful when selecting articles for other purposes.

Purpose

Articles intended to disseminate the findings of sound research are the most desirable when one needs to weigh an argument. Reference to such articles may sometimes be found in newspapers and magazines, but they are actually published in academic journals.

Coverage

Coverage refers to the extent to which an article deals with a topic. This includes a consideration of factors such as breadth, depth and currency. It may be important to figure out if the populations and geography covered in the article match your project's topic.

Objectivity

All information sources are influenced by the biases of authors and publishers, and journal articles are not an exception. Biases may be clearly stated or vaguely implied, but recognizing them, and the extent to which they shape the information provided, is quite important.

Examples include historical documents describing events in a way that supports their authors' beliefs or values, evolution as a theory underpinning biological and geological research, and theological research beginning with the assumption that the Bible is not inspired.

On the other end of the spectrum are news reports adhering to a strict description of an event with a balanced coverage of conflicting accounts. Bias is not necessarily bad, but it helps when authors and publishers state them clearly and leave room for interpretations based on different assumptions. Look for sources where this is the case.

Authoritativeness

Finally, the best articles come from authors who have devoted ample time to study a topic, developed hypotheses, test them, and have their methods and results scrutinized by others.

This is the case with journal articles in which authors with advanced educational degrees publish their research after their peers review it. The authoritativeness of such a source compounds when it is used in like-caliber sources as a basis for further research.

Assignment

Use the search box at the top of this page to find a recent article that is relevant to the topic assigned by your professor in class. Then complete and hand in to your professor this report providing information about your search.

An easy way to get a properly formatted citation for your selected article is to click on Cite under the tools pane on the right side of the article record.