Skip to Main Content

How to Choose and Use Databases

Search skills that help you find what you're looking for.

Introduction to Library Databases

LVC Library subscribes to over two hundred online databases.  This guide will help you:

Know what to look for when selecting a database.

Learn how to identify search terms that will pull up what you need.

Although many databases look different at first, most have similar features. Understanding how to use them will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your research.

There are plenty of things you can do when your search goes bad.  

The                             link is your friend.  Use it!

What Is a Database?

In library terminology, a "database" is an online source of organized information.  Some common types include:

  • Library Catalogs  These index all of the books and journals owned or subscribed to by a particular institution.  Catalogs typically only describe full books and journals, not individual chapters or articles. Because of this limitation, we also subscribe to...
  • Article Indexes or Databases  These index individual articles within specific academic fields. The journals and books indexed by these databases may or may not be full-text or available at LVC.
  • Online Collections of e-journals and/or e-books, usually grouped by the publisher or in subject-themed packages by "content aggregators."

  • Citation Indexes track who cited specific articles and books.  Google Scholar shines at this.  Learn more about citation indexes in the Too Few Results tab.
  • Electronic Discovery Systems which attempt (with varying success) to combine multiple databases into a single search engine.  LVC's version of this is called Primo.


Any of the above may also include or be focused entirely on...

  • specialized content types like reference sources, primary sources, newspapers, dissertations, government documents, technical reports, or standards.
  • non-text materials like statistical data, maps, images, music, or videos.
It's also important to note that we often subscribe to only a portion of the content available on a given site. Just as we don't purchase copies of every book and journal in print, we don't subscribe to every e-book or online journal available.

On & Off-Campus Access

Current LVC faculty, staff, and students may always access LVC's databases from on and off-campus.

Off-campus, be sure to access the database from the library's homepage.  

  • After selecting a database, you will encounter a login screen.
  • Login with your entire LVC email (include the piece) and your LVC password.