Introduction to Search Systems

A key to finding information sources for an academic project is knowing where to look for them. There are a variety of search systems, tools to locate information, available to help you in this task. Because no single search system covers all information sources, it is important to know which ones to use when looking for specific types of sources.

Library Catalogs Image Databases
Periodical Databases Audio Databases
Government Databases Video Databases
Institutional Repositories Web Search Engines
Dissertations and Theses Databases Archival Databases
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Library Catalogs

Use library catalogs to get information about items physically available in libraries. Sometimes you can also use a library catalog to access electronic resources.

Examples

  • Southwestern's Library Catalog. Bibliographic records of all books, audio, video and other items physically available at the library plus access to most of our ebooks. For magazines and journals check our periodicals finder
  • WorldCat A combined catalog for many libraries around the world, including books, journals, media, and manuscripts. Good for items not available locally and that you would like to request through Southwestern's library.

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Periodical Databases

Use periodical databases to locate newspapers, magazines, journals and articles in them.

Examples

  • Southwestern's Periodical Finder. Use this to locate a specific newspaper, magazine or journal. Good when you know where an article you are looking for was published.
  • Academic Search Complete. Extensive collection of scholarly journals and general interest magazines.
  • Wilson Select Plus. Another multidisciplinary index that provides access to professional publications, academic journals, and trade magazines.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic. This database provides full-text access to more than 350 newspapers from the U.S. and around the world.

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Government Databases

Beyond legal documents, government databases are good sources of technical and research reports, data sets and information about unpublished works.

Examples

  • Data.gov. Data sets generated by the executive branch of the federal government.
  • Texas.gov. Data sets and other public inforamtion from the State of Texas.
  • The Archival Research Catalog. Online catalog of the nationwide holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • AHRQ National Guideline Clearinghouse. Objective, detailed information on clinical practice guidelines from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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Institutional Repositories

Institutional repositories collect, preserve, and disseminate in digital form the intellectual output of an institution, especially that of colleges and universities. They are good for locating scholarly articles and books, electronic theses and dissertations, conference proceedings, technical reports, and digitized library and archival collections.

Examples

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Dissertations and Theses Databases

Obviously, these are databases that provide access to dissertations and theses. Some provide only bibliographic information while others include abstracts and sometimes full text.

Examples

  • Dissertation Abstracts. An index to dissertations and theses, with abstracts, produced from 1861 to the present in North America and Europe.
  • WorldCat Advanced Search. Set the content limiter to "Thesis/dissertation" to locate these resources using WorlCat's Advanced Search.
  • Europe E-Theses Portal. Access to 106,000 doctoral theses through the European Working Group of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD).
  • Australiasian Digital Theses Program. A distributed database of digital versions of theses produced by the postgraduate research students at Australian universities.

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Image Databases

Beyond the images themselves, image databases may provide access to related information such as title, creators, dates, description, source, copyright, etc. Images from subscription databases will usually provide higher quality and more details than those available freely on the Web.

Examples

  • ARTstor. Online library of more than one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences. The ARTstor Digital Library includes a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and teaching purposes.
  • Flickr. Free Web-based photo management and sharing application.
  • Google Earth. Virtual globe, map and geographic information computer application. It includes astronomical images, historical imagery from around the globe, and ocean floor and surface data from marine experts.
  • Google Images. Image content from the free Web. It works much like it's namesake Web search engine, that is, images are indexed based on their file name, linking text and adjacent text.
  • National Atlas Map Maker. Interactive map application from the federal government for national maps and geographic information on the Web.

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Audio Databases

Audio databases usually cover a specific kind of sound recording, such as music, speech, etc. The best databases include related information such as title, creators, dates, description, source, copyright, etc. Audio from subscription databases will usually be of higher quality and have more associated details than those available freely on the Web.

Examples

  • AudioVerse. Features sermons and other audio recordings from various Adventist sources such as Generation of Youth For Christ.
  • Naxos Music Library. Comprehensive collection of classical music available online. It includes over 254,000 tracks, covering Classical music, Jazz, World, Folk and Chinese music. Whilst listening, you can read notes on the works being played as well as biographical information on composers or artists.
  • Smithsonian Folkways. Non-profit record label dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.
  • iTunes U. A distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours.

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Video Databases

Video databases usually specialize in content of a specific genre, source type or intended audience. The following list includes three databases of possible educational value in higher education.

Examples

  • Academic Earth. Video lectures from leading scholars.
  • C-Span Video Library. Provides free access to the U.S. political process, including Congressional proceedings, hyperlinked to corresponding Congressional Record entries.
  • Films On Demand. Source of high-quality video and multimedia for academic, vocational and life-skills content.

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Web Search Engines

Web search engines index most pages on the free Web, that is they do not include content for which creators have requested no indexing, sources one has to pay to get, or content that would simply be impractical to index, such as constantly changing weather report pages.

Differently from other databases, indexing is done entirely by computers that store information such as a webpage's URL, title, first heading, first paragraph, and other data. This means that entries do not undergo any sort of human scrutiny to verify that a page actually has the information it is listed as containing. Search engines try to work around this by automatically giving priority to certain sources (e.g., those that many other pages link to).

Typically, the results of a search number in the millions, but savvy users know how to optimize their searches using advanced features. When used this way, Web search engines are good tools to find content from government agencies, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Aside from this, search engines are the tool of choice for locating informally published content.

Examples

  • Google. So popular it has become a verb. Make sure to become familiar with its advanced features.
  • Ask. This search engine lets you enter search queries in the form of a question (e.g., what's the capital of pennsylvania?).
  • Dogpile. This search engine gives you combined search results from Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.

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Archival Databases

Archival databases provide access to rare or unique items in an institution's archives. Content provided is often out of circulation or never published in print.

Examples

  • Archives & Statistics of the Adventist Church. Records center and archives of the denomination's world headquarters producing the denomination's annual directory, the Yearbook, and its annual statistical report.
  • Making of America. Digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.
  • The Portal to Texas History. Gateway to Texas history materials. You may discover anything from an ancestor's picture in a college yearbook to a rare historical map.
  • Southwestern's Adventist Heritage Center. Portal to Southwestern's collection of records documenting its history and that of adventism, especially in the American Southwest.

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