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History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Databases and Journals - Overview

While books and other forms of physical material may be important to your research you are likely to find that electronic journals and databases are necessary for scientific and medical research and form the research basis for most published articles. It is important to remember that journals can also come in print form and that if a journal is not available online it may still be available in print.

Journals and Databases

Before delving into the practicality of how to search The New School databases and journals, it is important to understand the different between the two as the terms are sometimes tossed around interchangeably. Journals are individual serial publications. They are published at regular intervals and can either be peer-reviewed or not. For a journal to be peer-reviewed, article submissions to the journal must be critically vetted by other researchers or academics working in the same field as the topic of the article. Peer-reviewed journals carry a certain amount of academic weight because their articles have been scrutinized. In a box below, you can find more information on determining the usefulness and validity of articles. Magazines are similar to journals but generally imply less academic articles. They are not usually peer-reviewed.

Databases are aggregates of several journals. They provide a way to search the contents of several different journals through one search engine. No database contains access to every journal. Database companies purchase access to journals, gather data on all of the journals they have purchased into one place, and sell that access to libraries. A database may also provide full-text access to different journals depending on which packages the library buys. This is why searching ISI Web of Knowledge from The New School and NYU will produce the same results but you may only be able to access the full-text from one or the other institution. Sometimes multiple database companies own access the same journals. That is why would may have access to the same articles through EBSCO, ISI Web of Knowledge, and Academic Search Premier.

It is up to you as the research to determine how to find the articles you need. Of course, the librarians are always available to help you. Below you will find some general guides to accessing electronic content from The New School and how to conuct research using journals and databases. Along the right-side column you will find some guides to searching some of the more useful databases for scientific research.

Finding and Searching Databases

Databases are likely to prove to be the most useful sources of information for research in the sciences. Identifying databases and searching through them can seem daunting, but The New School library offers some tools to help you select the best databases, search the broadest amount of data, and to make the best use of your searches so that you can find the best information for your research.

First off, as I have mentioned on previous pages of this guide, the best way to ensure that you are accessing all of The New School's online content, log into BobCat!

On the BobCat screen, click on the 'Articles and Databases' tab. You will see a list of subjects and formats. You can select the subject that most suits the topic of your research. In some cases you may want to search multiple subjects.

As an example, say you select 'Science' as your subject. You will see a list of databases like this:

In the search bar, you can enter keywords, titles, authors, subjects, or other information to search for articles. By clicking 'more options' you can get an additional search bar. From the list of databases below the search bar(s), you can select up to 10 databases to search at once with your query. Note that any databses with a grayed out check box must be visited directly to be searched. Additionally, you can go directly to any of the databses to conduct a more in depth search by clicking on the database title.

Once you conduct a search, you will see a list of articles which can be filtered directly in BobCat by topic, database, etc. To find the full text of the article, simply click on the article title. You will be taken to a GetIt screen which contains information about the availability of the article. It may be available electronically, only at NYU, or unavailable. This information will be displayed under 'Electronic Version via:' If the item is unavailable at both the New School and NYU, you can request it through Illiad.

If you already know the database you would like to search or want to use the advanced search features of the databases native interface, you can click 'Databases A-Z' from the BobCat menu. You will see the following screen:

You can search for the databases by entering it into the search bar or you can browse for the database by letter. If you try browsing for a database and don't find it, try searching for it. Sometimes the same database at NYU is called something different at the New School. This may depend on when each institution bought their subscription or the amount of access each institution purchased. For example, at the New School we offer access to 'Web of Knowledge'. The same database is called 'ISI Web of Science' at NYU. There is no difference between the two except how we list them.

In the column to the right on this page, I have created boxes for some of the most useful science, medicine, and technology databases with further description of their contents and how to use employ the databases' search features and filters to enhance your research in each database.

Electronic Journals

There are times when you may want to go directly to a specific journal. For instance, if you already have a citation from the bibliography of another article and you want to see the cited article. In that case you really just want to know if we have access to the journal and how you can get access to that specific article. Other scenarios in which you might want to go directly to a journal are if you would like to regularly the latest issue of a journal or if you are thinking of submitting a manuscript for publication to a journal and want to get a feel for what they usually publish.

Whatever reason you might have for going directly to a journal, you can do so by clicking on the 'Journals A-Z' tab in BobCat. As always, the best way to ensure that you are connecting to the full New School content, you should start by logging into BobCat.

You will see the following screen:

Because The New School has access to several thousand journals, I don't recommend browsing for journal titles by letter. Entering the ISSN (an identification number assigned to each journal) is the best way to ensure they you are getting the exact title you want. Most researchers do not know the ISSN off-hand. In that case, it is easiest to enter the Journal Title you are looking for. If you are not sure of the title leave the drop-down parameter as 'contains'. If you know the exact title, then switch the drop-down parameter to 'exact match' or 'begins with'. This is especially important for titles with common word names such as Nature or Science. A search of journal title contains 'nature' will return many results. Because "Nature" produces several variant journals such as Nature Genetics, you may wish to search for journal title begins with 'nature' or if you know you just want to see Nature then you can search for journal title exact match 'nature'.

If you have the exact citation for the article, then you can enter the title, author, date or volume/issue information in the 'Optional Information' section. If your search returns no results, however, you should try removing this additional information to see if that returns better results. In most cases, I would recommend leaving this information out of your search and letting the GetIt results identify the electronic holdings as you may end up over-limiting your results.

Your search will produce a results list of journal titles and ISSNs. If you see the title you are looking for, you can click on it or on the GetIt link to the right. You will then be redirected to a GetIt screen (like you would get in BobCat when clicking on GetIt). Just as in BobCat, the GetIt screen identifies the location of the journal and its availablity.

It is important to note that the electronic versions you are seeing are The New School's electronic holdings. If you searched for the same journal title through a similar tool sitting at an NYU library computer without being logged in, you would be directed to a GetIt screen with NYU electronic holdings. If you are logged into BobCat from any location, you will see The New School's holdings.

The GetIt screen will provide you links to access electronic versions of the journal through different databases that way if you prefer using EBSCO, and it is an option for the journal you are looking for, you can search the journal using the EBSCO interface.

In some cases, you may have few or no links to electronic versions of the journals. What then?

You can try going to NYU to see if they have electronic access, check if the journal is in print (physically available), or submit a query about it to Ask-a-Librarian. If we are unable to find it any other way, we can lastly try submitting an ILL request for the item.

Print Journals

You can check the availability of print versions of journals using the same method described above for electronic versions of journals.

When you reach the GetIt screen, you will see a section called 'Copies in Library'. If there are any physical copies of any issues of the journal in any of the consortium libraries, they will be listed in this section. You will see the library name/location, the available volumes/years, and whether they are available on the shelf, off-site, or are checked-out.

Primary and Secondary Sources

You have likely come across the terms 'primary source' and 'secondary source' in either your readings or your classes before. In the history of science, medicine, and technology, it is important to be able to identify 'primary' and 'secondary' sources when conducting research as each type contains its own value. Most research papers have a healthy balance of both.

Distinguishing between the 'primary' and 'secondary' sources can be a tricky.

In the simplest terms, a primary source is an original work whose creation is contemporary to the topic of the work. A scientific journal article containing an anaylsis of data would be a primary source. An item of correspondence between two scientists discussing their results would also be a primary source.

A secondary source is usually created after the event/topic discussed and contains analysis of the topic or analysis of primary sources about the topic. Secondary sources are often created by non-participants in the event. A published history of an event/topic would likely be considered a secondary source. A film portraying an event would also be considered a seconday source.

Sometimes, a document might be considered both 'primary' and 'secondary'. An original document created by a participant of a historic event which reflects or analyses the event after the fact might be 'primary' or 'secondary' depending on how it is used. For example, a recent letter from James D. Watson describing the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA would be considered both a primary source and a secondary source.

Naturally (and intentionally) there is a lot of gray area in these definitions. If you are having trouble determining whether material is 'primary' or 'secondary', or how to use material for your research paper, you can always speak with your professor or a librarian.

Web of Knowledge

Web of Knowledge (called Web of Science at NYU) - is an interdisciplinary database containing citation from many journals which would be relevant to research in the natural, biological, and social sciences as well as the history and philosophy of science.

If you go to the Web of Knowledge interface, you can see that the main search page contains three search boxes which can be limited to author, title, topic, publication name, and other limiters. You can also limit your search by setting dat ranges for publications.

Once you have entered a search term or term, the main portion of the screen displays the results while on the left side of the screen you can refine your search. Web of Knowledge provides extensive refinement options. By clicking on the arrow in front of the refinement categories you can see the options available, expand the list to see all the options available and check the boxes of the options you want to refine your search. For example, there is a very large list of 'subject areas' so that you can limit your search to specific fields of science and add or subtract fields as you see how they affect the results list.

The Web of Knowledge has a particularly interesting feature called the 'citation map'. From the results screen, you can see how many times any article has been sited, which may be useful if you are trying to determine the value or impact a particular article has had on a field. If you click on an article title, you see the option for 'citation map' within the record or in the blue box to the right. Click on it and you can create a visual map of references cited by the article (backward) and/or articles which have cited this article (forward). The citation map also includes a timeline of publication dates so you can see the time span of references cited by an article as well as the dates of the articles which cite it.

Medline (EBSCO)

Medline is a robust database of medical articles created by the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Medline is available throught several different interfaces. The one we encourage you to use at The New School is presented through EBSCOhost. This is a subscription-based interface which the library pays for. The reason we promote the use of this one is that the interface is easier to search, it includes links to full-text, and easily imports into RefWorks (see the Citations tab of this guide for more on RefWorks). Another interface you may have heard of is PubMed Central. This is NLM's interface and is worth noting because it is freely available. Once you leave The New School for future careers you may not have access to EBSCOhost so it is important to know that PubMed Central exists.

The EBSCOhost interface contains a standard set of advanced search boxes as well as a long list of medical-related limiters.

Medline uses a special set of subject terminology, called medical subject headings (MeSH), which are controlled by NLM through their MeSH thesaurus. Using this thesaurus, you can direct your search so that you can the most relevant results. This thesaurus is available through NLM at the following location:

Specific Journals of Interest

These journals have reputations for being among the top general science journals. For availability at the New School, please check Periodical Searcher.

Academic Search Premier

Academic Search Complete (formerly Academic Search Premier) is a huge interdisciplinary database of scholarly articles. Its contents is not specific to the sciences but does include sciences.

It is available through EBSCOhost and so, has a similar feel to Medline, however it will search a more general set of scholarly journals. Once you have conducted a search there are many limiters available through a box to the left of your results, including limiters for date of publication, subject, and source type. You can also limit your search to only articles with full-text available through The New School.

Proquest Central

Proquest Central is another large interdisciplinary database. As with Academic Search Complete, it is not specific to the sciences but contains articles relevant to the sciences.

From the main search page, you can limit your search to Science and Technology by clicking on that subject area in the box below and to the right of the search boxes.

Among the limiters, you can also limit your Proquest Central search to articles with full-text available through The New School.