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Research Tutorial—Part 3

Databases: An Introduction

"Databases"—it's probably a word you have heard before. Heck, we've mentioned it several times in this tutorial already! But what exactly is a database, and how does it fit into your research?

In this section:  

What Are Databases?

In the context of libraries and doing research, the generally accepted definition of a database is "an electronic collection of searchable information on one or more topics."

Right. So we ask again, what are databases?

Image of gate with caption: The good stuff is behind here

Think of databases as penned up corners of the Internet, sections that have been fenced off and locked, so that a regular Internet search (say, searching Google) won't find what's inside. And of course, it's behind this fence that most of the good information for doing academic research sits.

Why do they make this stuff hard to get to?

Unfortunately, like many things, it comes down to money. The companies who publish academic journals, magazines, and newspapers (all types of material you will find in these databases) need to make money. The people who digitize the content and create the search platforms need to make money. So they restrict access to the database by making them available through subscriptions.

So where does that leave you, the researcher?

With the library, of course!

One of the biggest roles that an academic library plays (and, not inconsequentially, where a large portion of the library's budget goes!) is in providing access to these databases. The library is your key through those locked gates. So rather than going to Google to try to find an academic journal article, come to the library's Web page. We know the secret codes to get you in.

Image of key with caption: The library gets you in!

Accessing Databases through Harrison  Libraries' Web Page

The Harrison  Libraries provides access to over 60 subscription databases, many of which contain hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of different publications, and millions of articles. The library's page also provides links to some of the freely accessible websites that still contain really good information. All together, we have over 200 links in our database listings!

So how do you find this treasure trove of information? Start back on the Libraries' home page and click on the "Databases and Articles" tab in the middle of the page:

Screenshot of library homepage highlighting Databases & Articles tab

If you know the name of the database (for example, your professor might tell you to specifically look in a database called New York Times), you can bring up the link to it by typing in the name and clicking on the "Go" button:

Screenshot of Databases & Articles tab. “Databases title” highlighted. Search box filled in with “New York Times”. “Go” button highlighted.

This will bring you to a page that looks like this:

Screenshot of A-Z Database list from Database title search of “New York Times”. “New York Times (” entry is highlighted.

You would then click title of the database; in this case "New York Times ( to be taken into the actual database. (Remember, on the library websites, RED means that something is a link and you can click on it!)

However, most of the time, you aren't going to know what database to start looking in. But that's where the "Browse by Subject" menu comes in handy. You can choose your general subject area:

Tutorial-Part 3

And when you click "Go" you will be taken to a page that lists the resources relevant to that subject:

Screenshot pf A-Z Database list from browse by subject: Education search. “A-Z Databases: Education” highlighted

REMEMBER: This is NOT where you search for articles. This is where you locate what databases are available to you. You must click on the red, linked name of the database to be taken into the database itself before you can start searching. (It will be obvious when you have entered the actual database because the page will look totally different!)

And One More Thing

You've probably noticed by now that some of the database names have a little lock symbol next to them, while others don't.

Screenshot of four items from the Database list. New York Times (, New York Times – Historical (1851-2002), and Newspaper Source Plus are shown with arrows pointing out the lock icon next to the database name. Newspapers of Connecticut (19th Century) shown with an arrow pointing out no lock icon next to the database name.

That lock symbol means that it is a database that the library subscribes to (that is, pays money in order to access). What that means is that if you ever try to access one of the "locked" databases while you are OFF CAMPUS, you will need to go through an extra step to be able to get into it.

When you are on-campus, you simply click on the database name and it takes you into the database. That's because the systems are set up to recognize that you're on the University of Hartford campus and therefore, you're allowed to access things that we pay for.

If you're off campus, the systems don't necessarily know that you're part of the University, and so it doesn't know to let you in. If you click on a database name that is one of the subscription databases, you will get the following page:

Screenshot of University of Hartford off-campus log in screen.

All this is asking is for you to prove you're part of the University of Hartford. As the instructions say, simply enter the username for your email account and the same password that you use for your email. Once you click submit, you should be taken into the database.

As always, if you run into any problems, please contact a librarian, and we will help you figure out what's going on.

So now that you know what a database is and how to find them on the library's web page, let's start searching!

Introduction        Part 1       Part 2       Part 3       Part 4       Part 5      Part 6       Part 7