One of the many research tools that DPL offers its customers (that means you, dear reader) is access to a wide range of databases. I hear you asking why you should care. Surely databases can’t possibly be of use to you, a cool teen with nary a care in the world? Au contraire. You know how your teachers are constantly telling you that you can’t use Wikipedia for research, because anyone can hop on and edit it? Or how you have to be really careful about where you find information on the Internet, because approximately 90% of it is hot garbage (at least in terms of research helpfulness)? Enter databases.
A database is a collection of articles and abstracts from reputable sources on a wide variety of topics. In this post, I’m going to focus on one database in particular, CQ Researcher. CQ Researcher is a database geared specifically for young researchers. It includes articles on all kinds of topics such as climate change, abortion, the death penalty, cyberwarfare, and online dating.
Unlike Wikipedia (which anyone can edit and contribute to), what you find in a database comes from verified, reliable sources. This means that the people writing articles actually know what they’re talking about. In this case, CQ Researcher contributors have written for publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. The fact that these are publications written for everyday people also means that the articles don’t get bogged down in hard-to-understand academic language. Complex issues are broken down into timelines, and pros and cons. Footnotes and comprehensive bibliographies are an excellent way to find additional sources. There’s even a citation tool!
Here are some tips to make your database searches more productive:
- Search using keywords instead of full sentences. For example, instead of What artists have worked on the Wonder Woman comics?, try “Wonder Woman” AND “artists”.
- Most databases aren’t quite as forgiving as Google, so make sure you have your keywords spelled correctly.
- If you’re looking for something with more than one word (ex. Wonder Woman), put your search terms in quotes (“Wonder Woman”). Otherwise, your search results will include every article that includes any of your search words (wonder, woman).
- You can put search terms together by either using the advanced search option, or by using Boolean modifiers (this is a very fancy name for the words AND, OR, NOT).
For a full rundown of the research resources DPL has to offer, check here.