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UMass Amherst Libraries

Japanese 391M/591M: Queer Japan in Literature and Culture

Best Bet Databases

Choosing and Using Databases

The library has several hundred databases. How do you choose the right one? Is there a right one? Wouldn't Google Scholar be easier? Librarians get this question a lot, or wish they did. There is no doubt that Google Scholar can be easier to search. No decisions, just pop in your search terms and away you go. (Remember to use the link from the library's database page or set up your Google Scholar to recognize your UMass affiliation so you will know which e-journals you can access).

There are distinct advantages to finding the "right" database for the job. The articles listed in LGTB are all related to Lesbian Gay and Transgender topics, so you elimininate the noise (unrelated gay as in happy). If you are interested in linguistic and gender identity, why not go directly to a linguistics database?

Just like the library catalog, keyword searching can be fabulous or frightening depending on how skillful you are with your searching techniques. All databases have some sort of controlled vocabulary or assigned terms, so it pays to stop and look at the Advanced Search settings to see if you can limit the garbage (results not related to your search) you retrieve.

For example, most databases will have a Geographic term index, so you can set that to Japan. Then do a keyword search and see what subject headings/terms are assigned to the best result you get. Use those to modify your search accordingly and you will get a more manageable set of results.

One exception to this is JSTOR. This is because JSTOR isn't an indexing database, it is an archive of digitized journals and so the search options are much more limited. You can search by words in title, words in abstract, or in the full-text. I usually start with an index database and then switch to JSTOR if my preliminary searches are failing and I am flailing about trying for any kind of article.