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Research Help: Databases

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The Library Edition is an archive of true to print digital copies of The Age newspaper from 2006. This collection enables users to find articles, photographs, advertisements, classified or cartoons just as they were printed.

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Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music (revised 2011), which offers more than 8,000 articles on composers, performers, conductors, instruments and notation, forms and genres, and individual works; and The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition (revised 2006), which supplements Grove's more-extensive articles with content geared toward undergraduates and general users. 

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Oxford Handbooks Online: Scholarly Research Reviews is an outstanding collection of the best Handbooks in 14 subject areas. Mac.Rob students have access to the Linguistics Handbook. Each Handbook offers thorough introductions to topics and a critical survey of the current state of scholarship in a particular field of study, creating an original conception of the field and setting the agenda for new research. The articles review the key issues and major debates, and provide an argument for how those debates might evolve.

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The Macquarie Dictionary was first published in print in 1981 and has been online since 2003.  Its reputation has gone from strength to strength and it is now nationally and internationally regarded as the standard reference on Australian English. Etymologies, pronunciation guides and daily words are included. The words included in the Macquarie Dictionary range from the colloquial to the technical in a range of fields.

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First published in 1956, New Scientist is a weekly science and technology magazine read by 778,593 people worldwide each week. Featuring a selection of the latest news stories from the worlds of science and technology, alongside in-depth features exploring the latest ideas that affect the world and how we understand it, reviews of the latest culturally relevant books, films or art and stunning imagery from around the world and beyond.

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Australia/New Zealand Points of View Reference Centre covers over 175 topics, each with an overview (objective background/description), point (argument) and counterpoint (opposing argument). Each topic features a Guide to Critical Analysis which helps the reader evaluate the controversy and enhances students’ ability to read critically, develop their own perspective on the issues and write or debate an effective argument.

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The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. The OED Online gives you full access to the regularly updated dictionary entries, timelines, authors and quoted works, and historical thesaurus. The OED Online ‘Aspects of English’ is a growing series of features offering routes into the dictionary—as well as topical takes on words (current and historical) via the OED homepage

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Since 1974, ECOS has reported on sustainability issues from a scientific perspective for Australia’s national scientific research agency, CSIRO. Through well-researched features relevant research, ECOS serves as a forum for authoritative articles focused on the environment and sustainability, raising awareness of ecological principles, and explaining the challenges and benefits of good sustainable development. The online archive of around 6000 articles is a rich source of material for anyone seeking to understand sustainability issues and how these have developed, been addressed and, in many case, remain current today.

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Using the Databases - How to Search

Using databases can be very different to searching in Google. While you might think Google is the best choice, in university you will be required to use proper academic databases for your research. You can read more about using Google, and the pros and cons, on this page.

The key to being a good researcher is learning common techniques that you can apply over a variety of different databases. By reading through these sections you will learn how to get great results from the library databases and prepare yourself for university. If you're looking for a quick spot of help - try watching the summary video.

If you need more help, please come and speak to a Librarian.

'Boolean operators' are a fancy way of talking about little words that connect your search words together. This allows you to either narrow or broaden your results.
The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.

Why use Boolean operators?

  • To focus a search, particularly when your topic contains multiple search terms.
  • To connect various pieces of information to find exactly what you're looking for.

Examples:

  • Youth AND poverty (will give you results that contain both words only - narrower search)
  • Colleges OR universities (will give you results with either word - broader search)
  • Color OR colour (a useful technique for words with different spelling!)
  • Bear NOT grizzly (will give you results for all bears that are not grizzly bears - narrower search)

'Truncation' broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings. For example if you wanted to search for technology, technologies and technological all in one go.

Truncation symbols may be different depending on the database you're using; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #

To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.

Examples: 

  • technolog* = technology, technologies, technological
  • child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood

Did you know that keywords and subject headings are different from each other?

Keywords are how you normally search from something on the web, they are flexible and use natural language. They can combine in many ways and don't necessarily have to appear together. However this means you can get lots of results, and many of these can be irrelevant to what you are looking for.


Unlike keywords, subject headings are very precise and pre-determined, this means you have to know exactly what they are and how they are spelled to use them. Each database will have a different set of these. Using these means you will get more relevant results. But how can you find out a databases' subject headings?

  • Look to see if the database has an online thesaurus to browse for subjects that match your topic (check the Help screens). OR
  • Once you have found some relevant results; look at the subject headings or descriptor field on those results. No you can use these terms to search for more resources!

Here's some examples of how these two searchers differ:

  • 'Heart Attack' (keyword search) vs 'Myocardial Infarction' (subject heading)
  • Distance Education (keyword search) vs 'Education - nontraditional' (subject heading)

Records in databases are made up of of fields containing specific pieces of information about a resource. Common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor

By using these fields, you can get more precise results. 

Say you were looking for books written by William Shakespeare, and not about him. You can type his name into the 'author' field and then you'll only get results with books that he has authored.

Or maybe you want an article published in a particular year? Simple, just type that year into the 'date of publication' field and this will narrow your results to only articles from that time.

Fields are normally found in the advanced search section, under a dropdown list or general menu.

Remember - if you don't select a field, most databases will just do a general keyword search (looking for the words you typed anywhere in the document) and this can give you back way too many irrelevant results!

Searching for a phrase can be like putting an 'AND' (see 'Boolean operators tab) in between each of your search words. However, using a phrase is even more precise, because it means these two words have to also be next to each other in the results!

For example, searching for the phrase: "green tomatoes". The database will give you results that only contain both of these words, in order. Otherwise you might get a whole lots of results about red tomatoes and green peppers.

How do you search for a phrase? Lots of databases use quotes around the words you want to search as a phrase, as shown in the above example. Some databases however, will automatically assume that all the words you put in the search bar are part of a phrase, without any quotes or symbols from you. Usually, the advanced search page lets you select that you are searching for a phrase. Have a look at the help menu on the database if you are not sure, or ask a Librarian.

Stop words are frequently occurring, insignificant words that appear in a database record, article or web page.

Common stop words include:

  • a
  • an
  • the
  • in
  • of
  • on
  • are
  • be
  • if
  • into
  • which

If you include these words in a search, you can get too many results. You should choose the most important words in your search, and connect them with boolean operators or use search fields (see previous tabs).

Sometimes, a database will ignore these words even if you include them and need them as part of your search. If they are a really important part of what you are searching for, you can try searching as a phrase (see phrase tab).

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Database instructions are located in hardcopy near the LRC computers.

 

Created by Michelle De Aizpurua