Saturday, October 2, 2010

Database Alert: Gale Rebrands Several Databases

Gale has decided that a snazzier interface was worth going for with several of their "Resource Center" databases, all of which we have access to through regional and state contracts. The new databases are Biography in Context (formerly Biography Resource Center), Opposing Viewpoints in Context (formerly Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center), U.S. History in Context (formerly History Resource Center: U.S.), World History in Context (formerly History Resource Center: World) and Science in Context (formerly Science Resource Center).

If we look at the homepage of, say, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, we see a very busy opening screen with links to featured videos, featured news, categories of hot button social topics and the like. Feel free to browse and explore. However, if you are trying to get at a particular topic, you might want to open the link to "Issues" in the black frame to a see a lengthy browsable alphabetical list of topics, or, better yet, simply put in a keyword search in the search box in the upper right.

Note that the types of materials are also listed above the search box. (And I find some of the secondary ones, tucked away in a drop-down called "More," actually more useful because they include the categories of "Academic Journals,' "Primary Sources" and "Statistics.") In any case, if you click one of these, the database will search specifically for this type of material at the same time it looks for your keyword. So, I can search everything for a single keyword like immigration or a keyword combination like children and internet, or I can search specifically within source type like "Viewpoints" or "Reference" by clicking the word above. And when you do a search, pay attention to the subjects listed to left. These will allow you to limit the results by major subject heading.

Whatever you call it, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, like our CQ Researcher, is an excellent database to use any time you are looking for both sides of any social issue that is currently a matter of public debate.

Another useful database that made the design switch is Biography in Context. It works in a similar way. Simply search for your person--anyone from literary authors to pop stars--in the upper-right search box, and then explore the resulting materials, displayed in categories. Note, although some popular figures will open with an extensive introductory write-up. Others will present simply as search results, as in my search for Aung San Suu Kyi below. I can look through the first few Reference book entries in the results list or further limit to types of materials (e.g., Magazines) from the list in the left frame.

For quick information on a famous person, Biography in Context is definitely a go-to database.

The others listed in the first paragraph are fine, but since they are more oriented towards high-school learners and public library clients, you would not want to do ALL of your research in U.S. History in Context , World History in Context, or Science in Context . They are good for introductory information, but they contain relatively little of the kind of high-quality scholarly journal literature that you might find in a JSTOR or BioOne.

Want to learn a bit more about why Gale thinks these new database platforms are an improvement? Here is a page on the interface. (More information is available in the links to the left.) And here is a video introduction to the "in Context" suite.

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