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How to Use a Database

What is a Database?

NBCC's databases are reviewed electronic collections of articles from journals, magazines, reference sources and newspapers most of which have a hard-copy equivalent. These sources have been evaluated for accuracy and credibility by discipline-specific experts and publishers. Our databases contain:

Journal articles Case studies News stories Recipes
Medical care sheets Magazine articles Encyclopedia entries Book chapters


The benefits of using a database include:

  • Citations computer-generated for every article or book
  • Free access to full-text articles
  • Powerful search capabilities to limit or expand your search
  • Trustworthy, reliable content
  • Articles written by experts, researchers and journalists
  • Highly organized information


How to Search a Database

Create a plan for how you are going to search for resources. Translate your ideas into a search by following these instructions:

  1. Break down your topic by key concepts
  2. Develop list of synonyms of key concepts
  3. Group synonyms by key concept to search the database


Using these terms will help you translate your topic into a database search. Each field in the advance search option represents a different key concept. By putting an “OR” between your synonyms and an “AND” between the fields, the database will return items related to each of your key concepts. Follow the example below with your topic and synonyms:

search example

Remember to select "Full Text Documents" on the Advanced Search or Search Results page. Selecting full text will ensure that you only see the documents that you will be able to read the full version of online.


Which Database Should I Use?

Start searching in the right database for your topic

On the library’s homepage click on your program to view a list of relevant databases to start your research.

Choose a category on our A-Z list of databases to explore more options.

Both multi-subject databases and program-specific databases can be useful to your research. If you are looking for more advice, speak to your Library Learning Commons Coordinator.


Database Tools

Our databases have many tools to make accessing, organizing and saving information easier for you

Once you click on an article in your search results, you can generate a citation for that article. Click on the Cite button, select the format you are using (generally either MLA or APA). Then you can copy and paste the citation into your notes or your paper.


Many of our databases can read articles to you. Click on the Listen button at the top of the article and then on the Play icon to have the article read to you.

You can also download an mp3 of the text and listen to it later.

Translations into nearly 40 different languages are available in many of NBCC’s databases. By clicking on the Translate dropdown on the article page, you can select a different language to read the article in.

Note that these translations are computer-generated and could contain grammatical mistakes. Check the original language if there is any ambiguity in the author’s meaning.

When you’ve found an article that you might use in an assignment, you can download it to view later. Depending on the database, click on the Download or Save button to select the file type and save it.


Narrow your Search

Filtering your search results will help you find the most relevant results quickly

A good strategy for finding relevant documents in a database is to start with a broader search and then narrow down your results. Beside your results, you will see several options for how to filter them.

Check the Content Type. Make sure that the content type matches what you are looking for. Different content types will generally have varying amounts of detail and/or length.

Narrow by Subject. This is a great way to narrow your results, but keep them very relevant to a topic.

Narrow by Date. This can be especially important if looking for information about a certain event or in a field where there is constant change, like IT.

Try narrowing your results by one limiter at a time to see how it changes the articles that you find. Using too many limiters can make your results too narrow, meaning you might have trouble finding enough articles.