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Writing and Citing: Databases & Journals

How Do I...?

Database Help

The following brief video will introduce students to locating scholarly / peer reviewed sources in databases. Molloy also offers a detailed help page on Finding Articles in Databases.

Understanding Different Types of Journals

This brief video describes the different types of journals, as well as understanding scholarly journals vs. popular magazines.

Cite it Right: The Four Levels of a Database Hierarchy

Why is this important anyhow?

Whenever you cite an article - especially one obtained electronically - you are asked to provide specific information regarding where the information was retrieved from. If you put the wrong information in the wrong spot, the Professor will not be able to verify your sources which could impact your grade on either the paper or the bibliography!

There are 4 levels associated with database articles, from the Top Level Down:

Aggregator (or vendor, if you prefer): this is the company that holds the databases. Examples of larger aggregators include EbscoHost and ProQuest. There is always only ONE aggregator.

Databases live inside products like Ebsco and the larger aggregators can contain 25 databases or more. Examples of databases within Ebsco would include ERIC, Academic Search Premier, PsycARTICLES and Business Source Complete to name a few. Certain aggregators (e.g. LexisNexis,JSTOR) contain only one database; in these cases they are both the database and the aggregator. More on Databases...


Journals live inside of databases and there could be hundreds of them - they could be periodicals, newspapers, magazines or trade journals. Examples of a Journal would be The Chronicle of Higher Education or Teaching Exceptional Children. Most journals are uniquely identified by an 8 digit ISSN# (xxxx-xxxx). Journals are generally organized by volume, issue and page number(s). Some databases and aggregators (e.g. SAGE, ScienceDirect, PsycARTICLES) contain only peer-reviewed journals, but normally, this is not the case. So, once you have entered your keywords, always make sure to filter for either "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" results if that is a requirement from your Professor. More on finding journals...

Articles are contained within the journals and of course, there can be thousands of them. This is the bottom level that leads to the full text. The article level is what you see in the results page after you enter your keywords, but the Journal, Volume, Issue and Page Number(s) are always contained in the article’s abstract or citation. The DATABASE is normally indicated somewhere at the top of the page. All of this information is required in order to cite a journal article. More on finding articles...

Simply stated - this time from the bottom up: articles live in the journals, which live in the databases, which are accessible via an aggregator. Knowing the names and the components will help you keep your citations and your research organized.  


Citation Example APA (6th):


Citation Example MLA:



Named for English mathematician George Boole (1815 - 1864), Boolean operators are used to connect and define the relationship between the words in your search. The three operators most commonly used in Library databases are:

AND All terms listed must be contained in the citation; abstract; or in the case of a full-text database, the article. LIMITS RESULTS nursing AND vaccine will find results that have both words present.
OR Just one of the listed terms will need to be present in the citation, abstract or article. EXPANDS RESULTS dog OR canine keywords in your result set will have either the word dog or the word canine.
NOT The word following the NOT will be excluded. LIMITS RESULTS bee NOT spelling will find results on the insects but not the competitions.


Keep in mind the operators AND / OR are completely opposite to how we use them in everyday language:

  • AND normally suggests more (e.g. I can have cake AND ice cream). But in databases, AND is a limiter because this instructs the database to return only articles that contain BOTH words.


  • OR in every day language means choosing one option over another (e.g. I can register as a democrat or a republican). The use of OR can greatly expand results because the database will return articles that contain ANY of the keywords.

Also, there are symbols and punctuation that help further refine results:

  • Putting keywords in quotes will tell the database to search for a phrase, this means the words will either be next to each other or within close proximity.
    • Example: "marketing ethics" will look for these words in this order. If the quotes were not there, the database would treat these words as an AND, and look for articles that contain both of the words marketing and ethics anywhere in the article.
    • For this reason, phrase searching is a great way to NARROW results if you are searching for a concept.
  • Putting an asterisk (*) behind the root of the word will return all versions of that word.
    • Example: global* will return results that contain the words: global, globally, globalization, globalize etc.
    • For this reason, the use of the * (also known as truncation or proximity operator) is a great way to EXPAND results.

These operators work in many commercial search engines, websites and databases.

  • You usually have to enter the operators in CAPS for them to be recognized
  • Sometimes, databases and search engines (e.g. Google) have created a form for you to search using Boolean operators without having to type them in. This can usually be found in the Advanced Search page of the website.