When writing a paper that requires quality research, sifting through online databases offered by your college library can feel overwhelming. Depending on your topic, focus, and requirements, you’ll often need to sift through pages and pages of database lists for the information you need. This can often be the most time consuming part of writing a college-level research paper – and you haven’t even started writing yet!
Begin at the beginning. What is your topic? What is the specific focus of your topic? Knowing the answer to these very important questions can help you to narrow the focus of your database search.
Several of the most popular research databases are multi-disciplinary, meaning regardless of the area of your research, you should be able to find good, quality research on a variety of subjects. Multi-disciplinary databases are like the Wal-Mart of information: they offer lots of research from a diverse assortment of source material. Read on to learn more about the top 5 databases for college-level research and what sets them apart from the pack.
1. Academic Search Complete – EBSCOhost.
If you’ve ever written any kind of high school or college paper that requires scholarly research, you’ve likely been introduced to Academic Search Complete (formerly Academic Premier), better known as EBSCOhost. This multi-disciplinary database houses nearly 6600 full-text periodicals, including magazines, newspapers and journal articles from most all academic disciplines, as well as over 6000 peer-reviewed journals. EBSCOhost has several different versions that include Complete, Elite, Premier, and Alumni Edition. Subjects include everything from psychology to vet science; about any topic you need research for, you’ll most likely find it here.
The only drawback of EBSCOhost? Too much information. Use your search terms carefully, narrow your focus, or you’ll likely end up with hundreds, if not thousands of results. The search page allows you to do field searches to limit your results to full-text articles only, peer-reviewed only, specific academic journal titles, author, and dates, among others useful limits.
2. Google Scholar
This online search engine allows you to find scholarly resources on the web. Once located on the web, you can often click a link that leads you to a specific database where you can find the article. Google Scholar is also multi-disciplinary, allowing users to search across many disciplines and sources that include articles, books, theses, and even court opinions. If you’re at a loss of where to begin, you can start with a wide focus with Google Scholar, and narrow down to specific databases from there.
One of the best features of Google Scholar is the search feature that allows you to locate the complete document through your library or on the web. In the right margin, a link will appear if the full-text is available as a PDF, or in your library’s database.
Though you might get an overwhelming amount of results with Google Scholar, you can also limit the results with a few key features. As you can see in the example above, the search terms, “underage drinking” hit with 38,700 results. By narrowing the years of publication, “Since 2018,” the results narrowed to just over 2000. Those results were then cut in half again by narrowing the search to “How to reduce underage drinking.”
3. Opposing Viewpoints in Context
One of the best databases to research both sides of an issue, Opposing Viewpoints provides the pros and cons of controversial contemporary issues. The database Includes full-text magazine and newspaper articles, as well as summary overviews of topics, statistics, and even links to relevant websites.
A quick browse of the issues covered in OV includes anything from police brutality, affordable housing, health care issues and reality television. Literally any topic you can think of, OV offers both sides of the debate. This is a great place to begin if you’re unsure of the position you want to take on an issue.
4. SIRS Issues Researcher
Like Opposing Viewpoints, SIRS Issues Researcher offers opinions on the pros and cons on current debated social issues. Thousands of full-text magazine and newspaper articles are available exploring current events that include social, scientific, health, historic, economic, business, political and global issues.
Publications in SIRS include books, magazines, newspapers, websites, as well as government documents and many other resources. SIRS offers “Essential Questions,” or a key question on a current topic. For instance, a quick search on the subject of college environments turns up “How should college administrators respond when free speech on their campuses could lead to protests and violence?”
You’ll see 2 viewpoints, with links to full-text articles of the results. Also on the results pages you’ll see a “Research Guide” PDF link. This cool feature offers a 6-page questionnaire to help guide you through the entire research paper process, a valuable tool.
Need statistics to round out your research? Statista probably has what you need.
The database boasts immediate access to over one million stats or facts, including consumer survey results and industry studies from more than 18,000 sources on over 60,000 topics.
- Need to know the total population of the US? 329.85 million.
- The country with the highest cell-phone subscription? China, followed by India and Indonesia (US is 4th).
- State with the highest cancer rate in the US? Kentucky.
- Leading US sales (in dollars) of chocolate? M&Ms.
- Country with the highest drunk driving rate? South Africa, followed by Canada and the US.
While stats and facts won’t necessarily meet your minimum research paper requirements, including shocking statistics can often make your argument compelling and convincing.
When beginning research on an academic paper, don’t fall into the rabbit hole of over-researching your topic. Pick a few key databases that offer peer-reviewed and highly reputable research. Focus your search on key topics or specific points you hope to make. It’s not necessary, and often a waste of valuable time and energy, to endlessly browse online research. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with Google Scholar, and narrow your focus from there. Choosing a few key databases will give you what you need from the mountains of online content to write a well-researched paper.