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How to Use Online Databases

Updated on February 23, 2013
Research databases from your home computer.
Research databases from your home computer. | Source

Accurate online information on every topic is at your fingertips - if you have a library card

Whether you are a high school student preparing a science fair project, a journalist looking up archived news sources or just an ordinary person trying to find the best headache remedy, you have probably spent some time trying to find information online. The internet has a huge amount of information out there at your fingertips, but sometimes it is a good idea to be careful about where you get your information from. Most serious researchers benefit more from vetted sources with information researched and written by subject specialists. You can find out a lot of things through a google search - but you can learn even more by using online databases.

Databases are available through most public library systems

University students have had access to online databases for many years now. However, not everybody is aware that the researching power of these online databases is available to people who hold public library cards. Many public libraries pay for subscriptions to such useful databases as MasterFile Premiere or Newsbank, and cardholders can often access these databases from their own home computers even after the library doors are closed. This article will take you through the process of researching an online database article.

Step One:

Go to the website of the public library in your area

Screen Capture: Fort Worth Library Website

Go to the website of your public library.
Go to the website of your public library. | Source

Step Two:

Locate the link for the online databases. In this screen capture, it's on the right hand side in the middle of the column. Click on that link. You will see something that looks like the screen capture below. It will likely tell you how the databases have been funded and rules for their use. In the case of this library system, only person with a fine-free library card may access their databases.


Screen Capture: Database Home Page


Step Three: Choose the database you wish to use

The actual databases available will differ from library system to library system, but certain general interest databases are likely to be available in many places. One reliable source of general interest information is a database called MasterFile Premiere. We will locate that in this list of databases.

Screen Capture:Master File Premiere


In this screen capture, you can see the link to use MasterFile Premiere. Unless you are researching the databases at your local library, you are likely to need a library card to continue. You will choose the "Use at Home" link.

Step Four:

Enter your library card number

Screen Capture: Enter Library Card Number


Step Five:

Here you will see the main database page, with the search bar prominently located. Enter your search term in the space provided.

Screen Capture: Ebsco Database Search Page


Step Six

Locate articles pertinent to your research.

For this search, I entered the term "science fair volcano." As the final screencap indicates, this gleaned an article from Science Activities magazine entitled "Controlled Volcanism in the Classroom: A Simulation." There is a link to a PDF file that gives a lesson plan on how to build a volcano, complete with necessary ingredients and step-by-step instructions.


Step Seven: Explore for Yourself!

This introductory step-by-step tutorial is intended to alert ordinary computer users to the existence of on-line databases and the means to access them. You can get a library card by going to the library in your town and presenting a valid driver's license. If you live outside the city limits of your nearest library system, you may be able to gain access to library services by paying a fee. There are library databases to serve all kinds of needs:

  • Business
  • Education
  • General Interest
  • Government and Law
  • Genealogy
  • Homework Help
  • Foreign Languages
  • Literary Criticism
  • Magazines and Newspapers
  • Medicine
  • Science

For more detailed instructions on how to perform more in-depth searches, you may also enjoy this source, written by a fellow hubpage author.


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