Databases and the library
'We directly and indirectly use databases everyday - banking transactions, travel reservations, employment relationships, web site searches, purchases, and most other transactions are recorded in and served by databases' (Oppel 2004).
Anyone who regularly uses a PC will undoubtedly also use databases regularly, perhaps without realising or without giving the matter much consideration. The kinds of databases that you are likely to use during your research will include those databases containing journal or newspaper articles or perhaps the library catalogue. Databases are only useful if the correct information can be easily retrieved from them. The desired information can only be retrieved if the search is conducted correctly.
What is a database?
'A structured collection of data held in computer storage especially one that incorporates software to make it accessible in a variety of ways' (Oxford English Dictionary 2006).
Different database systems work in slightly different ways in terms of how they store and retrieve data. However to the end user this may not be apparent and fundamentally, all databases provide a way to store and access data. The word 'data' in this context does not just refer to numerical figures, 'data' can consist of words and images too (Chowdhury 2004). Essentially, anything that can be stored in a database can be termed as data in this context. A database will generally allow shared access and also for alterations to be made to the database itself without affecting the user's interface (Chowdhury 2004) so that data can be updated, added or removed etc without disruption. There may be differences in the way that databases' are searched for example in the way that key words are linked together. Databases usually have tutorials/instructions or example search terms for guidance.
The library is a fantastic source of information both in terms of tangible books and journals for manual searches but additionally for its links to electronic sources of information such as the iSkillZone that contains information about finding items in the library and the best way to find journal articles.
If you intend to access any literature source manually without using a database i.e. a manual journal search at the library, then seek the advice of the relevant faculty librarian. The way that you manually retrieve information from a journal or practitioner text etc, will often be discipline or journal dependent.
How are materials in the library classified?
The materials in the library at the University of the West of England are classified using the Dewey Decimal classification system. The library is not only the place to search manually for books, DVD's and theses but also offers many links to useful sources of information including the library catalogue (a database) and also subject specific databases which are a really useful way of finding relevant information.
There are some useful interactive tutorials for searching the UWE catalogue available here: Searching the library catalogue
Whatever you are looking for, journals, government publications, case law newspaper or other articles, the library or your faculty librarian should be your first port of call. To contact your faculty librarian, select your subject or discipline from this list on the library website. It is a good idea to spend some time now, before you begin your search, familiarising yourself with the library. The links provided here are a good place to start.
There are also many useful library websites and databases available on the web, as well as collector sites that provide helpful lists of libraries and databases. See Library Resources on the Internet as an example.