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Resources for Education Grad Students: Databases

Library Databases

What is a database? 

A library database is a powerful search tool that gives you access to thousands of publications within a certain discipline.

Oftentimes, databases will provide full-text PDF access to a publication that you can then download and save. If you do not see full-text access through the database, you can search for the full-text by clicking on "ViewIt@UI" or requesting it through Interlibrary Loan

The UI Libraries subscribes to over 1,200 databases that are searchable by name, type, or discipline. For most education-related topics, you can draw from this list of Education databases

How is this different than InfoHawk+?

InfoHawk+ will search many of our popular databases at once, but you might find that it brings back too many results, or shows you results that aren't relevant. Searching in an education-specific database (like ERIC, Education Source, or PsycINFO) is a more direct way to search the literature in your discipline and will give you access to important tools like subject headings. 

Database Basics

What should I know in order to be successful with my database searches?

In order to be a competent database-searcher, you should be familiar with boolean operators, subject terms, and filters.  

Boolean Operators

AND, OR, and NOT are simple words that carry lots of weight in databases. Knowing how to incorporate these little words into your search will vastly improve your search results. Click through the slides to see how they work: 

Subject Terms

Subject terms are the database's official vocabulary used to describe research publications. These can help guide your search and give you ideas for different ways of describing a concept. Subject terms are also hyperlinked which allows you to get a list of all the research with a particular subject term, similar to hashtags in social media.


Filters show up on the left-hand side of your search results and enable you to quickly refine your results. Some popular ones include resource type, publication date, and scholarly/peer-reviewed.

How Boolean Operators Work

Click through the slides to see how to search the main concepts of your research topic with Boolean operators. 

Databases Explainer

This video demonstrates Boolean operators, extracting main concepts from your research question, an example search in a database, and subject terms.

Information Clicking on the arrow at the bottom of the video will allow you to jump to specific content.

Database Comparison