The Research Process

Using Databases-

Although the books in the library will provide you with a lot of useful information; early on in your studies you will find the need to get more up to date information, or perhaps information on a topic not widely covered in books. This is when you will need to use the Databases available through the library. 

A database is an electronic catalogue or index of articles, with information from journals, books, newspapers, conference proceedings and much more.

The library subscribes to many databases covering various different subject areas.
Articles in a database are available 'Fulltext' (the full article is provided), or as abstracts (only a summary of the full article is provided). Many of the databases that DIT subscribes to are fulltext.
For a full list of useful Art and Design databases including information about subject coverage and access, please see the Databases section on the main Art and Design Resources page.  

  1. Develop a Search Strategy

Before you begin to search a database you need to think about what you actually want to look for and how you want to phrase your search. This is called 'developing a search strategy'. You need to really analyse your topic and decide on about 6-8 keywords that sum up the information you want. Be as specific as possible. Use subject encyclopaedia and dictionaries to help you clarify your topic, get background information and give you ideas for keywords. You can use or the thesaurus on the database you choose to get you started.

  1. Choose your Database and Do Your Search

Once you have your keywords you will need to search for them in your chosen database. Choose a database based on the subject area covered (e.g. if you were looking for information about art history or criticism then Art Full Text would be a good database to use). Most databases have a Basic and Advanced Search page. It is better use the Advanced Search page as you will be able to enter more keywords and also refine your search. Enter your keywords and start your search.

  1. Broaden/Narrow your Results

If you find that you have too many results you can always narrow down your search by limiting by year, by document type, or by fulltext as opposed to abstract only (available in fulltext databases only). You can always add more keywords to make your search more specific using AND. You can also try a phrase search which allows you to find documents containing a particular phrase e.g. "video art". If you find that you have too few results then you might have to change some of your keywords. You can always truncate words using the * symbol e.g. art* will search for art/artist/artists.

  1.  Choose What you Want to Keep

You will then need to go through your list of results and pick out the useful ones. You should have a quick read through the abstract to see if the article is of use or not. As mentioned before, you may not always get the fulltext of the article. If you don't, check for the Journal title (not the article title) on the DIT catalogue to see if we have the journal in paper form. If it is not available in DIT you can get a letter of introduction from the issue desk to visit another library that does stock the journal. You can check other library catalogues here. You can also apply for an Inter Library Loan to get a copy of the article/book. Please see ILLs for more information.

  1. Sign Up to the Database

Another useful tip is to create an account in the database that you find the most useful. Do this so that you can save the results that you have found (create folders for different research topics), and also so that you can create an alert within that database. An alert will cause an email to be sent to you each time some new piece of information goes into the database relating to your search terms. This will save you a lot of time. To create an account in database look for 'Create an Account'/'Sign In' buttons.

Use the Help section of each database to watch tutorials or get tips on searching effectively.

Every year the library holds Information Research sessions for specific courses so make sure you come along to these to learn more about the databases relevant to you.

Previous Working on a Specific Project 

Next Evaluating Web Resources

Back to main menu

Back to Top