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Wellesley College Research Guides

WRIT 146: Alternative Worlds

Intro to Library Databases

What is a database?

Databases are resources that contain information that is organized to make it easier to search and access.

The most common kind of library databases contain articles from academic journals and other publications, but there are many kinds of databases--databases for images, videos, data, news, and many other kinds of sources!

Why should I use a library database?

    Not everything can be found in SuperSearch! Articles and books in some databases don't show up in SuperSearch.  
  • Databases are often specialized by subject area (such as history, sociology, art, film/media studies, psychology, etc.).
    • Searching in subject-specific databases focuses your search and helps you find more relevant sources. 
    • Subject-specific databases often offer special filters or search features designed to help researchers in that subject find what they need.
      • For example, in a history database, you might be able to limit your search results to those covering a particular historical period.
  • Databases contain information not available through general internet search engines (such as Google).
    • Many articles that are usually behind paywalls can be accessed through library databases. Wellesley College subscribes to over 300 different databases!

Search Key Databases for Topics in Literature

Databases can contain a combination of full-text (ready to read online) and citation information that can lead you to articles, book chapters, or books. In addition to searching literature databases, you may want to search a database in a subject area that relates to a theme you are exploring, such as climate change or gender issues. See Selected Databases in Other Subject Areas below.

Selected Databases in Other Subject Areas

The databases here are just a few that could be useful for the kinds of research topics you might be pursuing in this course. Some, like Academic Search Complete, are multidisciplinary. Others, like the America: History and Life or Sociological Abstracts, focus on specific subject areas. Check out our Database A-Z list and sort by Subject to see other databases that could be relevant for your topic.

Try these Search Tips

Use quotation marks " " to search words as a phrase. This will narrow your results.

"science fiction"

Use AND to combine multiple concepts in your search. This will narrow your results.

"science fiction" AND gender

Use OR to find different ways your topic could be expressed. This will expand your results. Group these related terms in parentheses, so the database interprets them first. The following search will find results that have any one of the terms in parentheses as well as the phrase "science fiction."

"science fiction" AND (gender OR "sex role" OR femininity OR masculinity)

Use an asterisk * to find variant endings. This will expand your results

"science fiction" AND (gender* OR "sex role" OR feminin* OR â€‹masculin*)

Search the Library Catalog

Catalog Search Tips

Why should I search the library catalog?

The library catalog is another way to search for books, ebooks, and videos. Although SuperSearch includes the library catalog, searching the catalog separately can give you a smaller, more focused set of results. You can also use the subject terms to browse related materials.

Try a keyword search. Once you find a book that's relevant to your topic, click on the title and look for Subjects in the record of that book to help you find "more like this."

Sample keyword search for

leads to linked subject terms and more books related to this topic:


Clicking the first word or phrase above will show you everything listed under the broader topic (e.g., Food supply). Clicking a subsequent word or phrase will take you to the narrower topic (e.g., clicking United States in the Subject Food supply > Government policy > United States will show you everything listed under that whole subject string).

Not finding enough? Search WorldCat and request a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Getting Books That Are "Unavailable" in the Catalog

InterLibrary Loan (ILL) services will continue to be available for print books, ebooks, chapters, and articles.  If you only need a chapter or two from a book, place a book chapter request and we'll try to get them electronically.   Requesting an item through ILL will be more efficient than recalling an item from storage; however, if we are unable to locate an item through ILL, we will pursue other means.   

Where do I pick up & return my ILL requests during the renovation?

Pickups: Modulars, Room 103

Returns: Modulars, Room 103, Blue Library Book Drop outside the Modulars or the Art or Music Libraries

Service Desk Hours

How do I Make Requests?

For Loan requests, search the Library Catalog, WorldCat, or SuperSearch and look for one of the following links to place your ILL request.  If we already own an item, but it is in off-site storage or checked out, you can still select “Request from another library (InterLibrary Loan)”. 

Renovation Website