Skip to Main Content
Research Guides

WRIT 155: The Selfie in American Life

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!

Key Databases

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 PsycINFO or GenderWatch, focus on specific subjects such as psychology or women and gender studies. Check out our Database A-Z list and sort by Subject to see relevant databases for your topic.

Unsure about what database to use? Ask me!

What is Peer Review?

Many databases allow you to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles. Learn about peer review in this short video (from the University of Kansas Libraries).

Search the Library Catalog

Catalog Search Tips

Why should I search the library catalog?

The Wellesley Library Catalog is a way to search for books, ebooks, and videos (not individual articles). Although SuperSearch includes the library catalog, searching the catalog separately can give you a smaller, more focused set of results. While SuperSearch will search inside many books, for example, the library catalog will just search information about each book (what is often called metadata). This can be very helpful for relevancy (since you'll only get results in which your search terms are important enough to be included in the metadata), but it means the specific terms you choose become more important. Try a variety of keywords, and use what you find to find more. You can also use the subject terms to find related materials.


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

"social media" AND adolescents

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

Social media > Psychological aspects.

Internet and teenagers

Teenage girls > United States > Social life and customs.

Hit a Paywall?

owl mail

Can't find what you're looking for at Wellesley?

Use WorldCat Discovery to search and request directly from libraries worldwide via Interlibrary Loan.

Questions? Interlibrary Loan Guide