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Information Literacy Research Skill Building: Database Evaluation

This guide contains information literacy instructional materials based on the ACRL Information Literacy Standards.

Database Evaluation

Database Evaluation                                                                       


golden scales Before you begin searching a database, you will want to figure out whether the database actually contains the information you need for your research. Spending a few minutes evaluating the database can save you valuable time and help you leverage your searches to get the best results.

Perhaps the most common method used to decide the most appropriate database for research is disciplinary. Many times you can determine the subject content of a database by its title -- The Humanities Index (only works in Internet Explorer) or PsycInfo for example.
Find a list of WSU Libraries' databases by subject or discipline by clicking on the "Category" tab, and then scrolling through the list of entries in the "Subject Search" box.
Besides determining the disciplinary focus of a database, however, there are other elements of evaluating databases you should be aware of. Namely the following:
1) Types of material covered in database.
Books? journals? web pages? newspaper articles? conference proceedings?
2) Publisher of database.
Does the database provide any information about the publisher? Is it an academic or commercial publisher?
3) Time coverage
What years of publications does the database cover? Some databases only cover from ~1990 to current. Other databases -- such as JSTOR and PsycInfo cover articles back to the 1890s!
4) Update schedule of database.
Is the database updated every day? once a month? quarterly?
Evaluating a Database from a Find Database search:

When you conduct a search on the WSU Libraries' Find Database page, set the search results to display in "Brief" mode. That will give you easy access to information about each database. Look for info icon if you want more information.
screenshot of Find Database Brief mode page

For more complete information, click on the "information" button info icon.

Try it now on the graphic to the left. Click on each of the two information buttons.

Ask Questions graphic

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