Locate Search Tools

The next step is choosing one or more search tools. There are three “places” to go:

Difference between library databases and the web

Like a traditional library would collect books and print journals, the Empire State College Online Library gathers together and organizes online search tools for you to use. Some search the web and others search password-protected resources.

  • open web – consists of web sites that can be found using search engines and accessed for free.
  • deep webconsists of content hidden from regular search engines and accessible only with a password. Library databases are part of the deep web. We pay for annual subscriptions and provide you with access via your college login.

There are two types of search tools for locating and obtaining access to information resources:

  • database – organizes and contains information sources. Examples are Academic Search Complete for journal articles, Films On Demand for videos, and ArtSTOR for images. Some are free, but most require a subscription, paid for by the library to provide access to its users. Databases are categorized in three ways:
    • all full-text, partly full-text or just citations
    • all scholarly, mixed scholarly and popular or just popular
    • multidisciplinary (many subjects) or just one subject
A 3 dimensional grid (x, y, and z axes) where the x axis goes from "just citations" at one end to "all full-text" at the other; the y axis goes from "one subject" at the bottom to "multidisciplinary" at the top; and the z axis goes from "all scholarly" closest to the viewer" to "all popular" farthest away. Different databases are plotted in the 3-dimensional space. JSTOR is all scholarly, all full-text and multidisciplinary. PsycInfo is all scholarly, some full-text and one subject. Academic Search complete is mixed scholarly and popular, some full-text and multidisciplinary.
Please click the image to see a full-sized version.
  • search engine – uses “crawlers” or “spiders” to go through the open web looking for content, which it then indexes for you to look up. Examples are Google, AltaVista and Bing. A search engine doesn’t own or control the content you look up in it, which  means you have to filter out unreliable and low-quality content for yourself.

Google Scholar is different. It uses crawlers to search and index scholarly articles. Here’s the link to log in to Google Scholar.

To find library databases

The databases in the Empire State College Online Library are organized in two ways.  From the library’s home page, you can search for databases:

  • By Subject – This is a list of our Subject Guides. Choose the guide whose topic best fits the topic you are researching.  If you can’t find a single topic that fits, use more than one or use the Multidisciplinary/Get Started guide. Inside the guide you select, click on the blue tabs across the top to access different kinds of resources. For instance, you will find article databases listed under Journals & Articles. Read the descriptions of the databases to select one that fits your needs, and click the title to log in.
  • By Title – If you already know what database you want to search, use this option – it lists the databases alphabetically. Be sure to look through the blue tabs at the top to find sections for newspaper databases, image and multimedia databases, etc.

You’ll find the links for Resources By Subject and All Databases By Title in the left column of the library home page.

Screenshot of the library website with All Databases By Title and Resources By Subject circled.
Please click the image to see a full-sized version.


Other Places To Search

You don’t have to limit yourself to information sources from the Empire State College Online Library. WorldCat and Google Scholar are tools for locating locate books and articles by searching across thousands of libraries, government sources and document repositories. Some of these materials are available online, and you may be able to borrow others from a local library or through interlibrary loan.  Google U.S. Government is useful for locating government documents on a variety of topics, such as laws, regulations, statistics, Congressional reports, court decisions and so on.

For more information, go to Finding Information Sources Outside the Library.

a brief course in information literacy