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ORANGE PARK: Databases





  • words or phrases describing main concepts in your topic - good to start with


  • "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database
  • database looks for keywords in most parts of an article or book record (title, abstract, etc.)


  • database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or subject descriptor portion of an article or book record
  • may yield too many or too few results


  • subheadings can be used to focus on one aspect of the broader subject
  • may yield many irrelevant results


  • search results are usually very relevant to the topic - typically more precise than a keyword search

Scholarly vs Popular vs Trade / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about journals and magazines, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarlypopular, and trade.

One very important difference between scholarly journals and other types of publications is peer review. Watch Peer Review in Three Minutes to learn what this means and why it's important to your research.

How do you know if an article you've found in a database is from a scholarly journal? Consult this table:







Written by

Authorities in the field, such as professors or researchers. Often an article has several authors.


Journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers. Usually an article has only one author. Sometimes no author is listed.


Specialists in the field. Usually an article has only one author. Sometimes no author is listed.

Written for

Other authorities and scholars in the field. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language. The tone of the writing is formal.


A general audience. Often written to entertain as well as to inform. Authors explain terms the reader might not be familiar with. The tone is usually informal.


People who work in the field. Written to offer practical information, news, etc. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language.

Sources cited

Sources are cited in a formal style in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.


Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally.


Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally.


Usually has formal, labeled sections for the abstract, conclusions, bibliography, etc. If there are any images, they are probably charts, graphs, or tables.


No abstract or other formal sections. Images are large and colorful in a PDF file; in an HTML version, there will be placeholders like [color photo].


Unlikely to have formal sections. Images are usually intended to illustrate concepts rather than decorate the page.

Peer review






Often a database will even tell you whether a journal is scholarly or not.

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Recommended General Health Websites

Below is a list of General Health Web sites that are excellent and highly recommended:

Boolean Logic


How to Evaluate Your Sources

How can you tell if the information you find is good information?  Use the CRAAP test. It's a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find.  Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.


The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • If your source is a website, do all the links work?  If not, the page may be out-of-date.


The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information too basic, or too advanced for your needs?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?


The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • If your source is a website, does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)


The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?  Does the author cite their sources?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source (not from a similar website, as some information is duplicated over and over on the web) or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?


The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?


CRAAP test adapted from California State University, Chico.

Developing Your Search Strategy

Selecting Your Search Terms

Selecting your search terms

Some tips when selecting your search terms:

  • Consider all the synonyms and related terms for the terms you are searching for:

         e.g. teenager, teen, teens, youth, young adult, juvenile, adolescent

  • Think about  American spelling and terminology

         e.g. colour / color,  behaviour / behavior, lift / elevator

  • Consider formal and informal terms

         e.g. heart attack / myocardial infarction

  • Think about different word endings, plurals

         e.g. child, child's, children, childhood

  • Note acronyms and abbreviations

         e.g. computer aided design / CAD

Evaluating information

Evaluating Information - tutorial from Penn State University
Evaluating Internet Health Information - tutorial from National Library of Medicine
Evaluating Web Resources Checklist

Identifying a Scholarly Article

Consortium of Education Affiliates Libraries