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Legal Studies Guide

Use this guide to help find legal resources available to you at Fant Memorial Library, including materials--cases, statues, legal reference, law reviews, etc.--help from research experts, and spaces for you to work and study.

How To Search a Database


A library database is an electronic collection of information. They can contain journals, magazine, and newspaper articles as well as citations, abstracts, and books. 

Fant Memorial Library subscribes to over 100 databases. Some of these databases are interdisciplinary and cover different subjects while others are subject-specific and only include information on a certain topic.

All of our databases can be accessed both on and off campus by MUW students.

While the internet can be good for quickly searching for some information, databases are best for academic research. 

  Internet Database
Examples Google, Wikipedia Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, OVID, ScienceDirect
Authority/Credentials Anyone can publish and anyone does. Difficult to verify credentials. Results are not always scholarly. Authority/credentials are guaranteed. Most articles are scholarly and peer-reviewed.
Results Thousands. Duplicates are not filtered out. Many are not scholarly. Hundreds or fewer. Duplicates are filtered out. You can limit to full text.
Relevance Lots of “noise” because there are no subject headings assigned. Information can be biased, untrue, or irrelevant. Databases focus on specific subjects. Offer fewer but more relevant results. Results are from scholarly publishers and authors.
Limiters Can limit by document type (pdf, doc) and source (gov, org, com) Can limit by date, document type, language, format, peer reviewed status, full text availability, and more.
Stability of information Information from the Internet is unstable. It can disappear at any time. Researchers will often be asked to pay a fee to access journal articles. (Note: These articles are available to you via the Library as part of your tuition.) Databases are a collection of articles that have appeared in journals. This makes their status more stable than the Internet. The information is paid for by subscription to be offered as part of a student’s tuition.

Thanks and acknowledgement to Benedictine University's General Library Research Guide which this box is based on.

Here are some helpful search tips to get your database search started:

1. Be Creative

Try using synonyms or different phrases when searching to get slightly different results.

2. Search Multiple Databases

Different databases may have different results based on their subscriptions and algorithms, so try a few before moving on.

3. Don't be afraid of non-full text results

If the database does not have the full article, don't worry! You can put in an InterLibrary Loan request and we will get it for you.

4. Combine and Truncate Search Terms

Using the word AND between words will combine the search terms in database so that only results with both the word before and after AND will be included. Using an asterisk will allow you to search for words that have different endings. For example, searching relat* will pull results for relate, relationship, relates, related, and any other word that begins with relat.

5. Ask for Help

Librarians are here to help. Always feel free to ask questions about your research. We cna be reached via text, phone, email, chat, and in-person.

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