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New students' guide to the library

New to Federation University? This guide outlines the library's services and resources

For many students, your assessments will require the use of journal articles. You may also be instructed to search in specific databases.

It's helpful if you understand what they are before you start.

Books v Journals v Databases

Click on each drop-down for an explanation

Books are usually published once, although they are sometimes reprinted. Textbooks are often updated as new editions. Some scholarly books contain collections of chapters each written by different authors, which are complied by one or more editors.

Books can be available in print or as eBooks.

Journals (which contain journal articles) are like magazines aimed at a scholarly audience. They are printed periodically, (every 1 month, 2 months, 3 months etc.) and each issue contains collections of articles written by different authors.

Journals are good for research because their articles are short, focussed and can be published much more quickly than a book. 

Check your relevant subject-specific guide for help on searching for journal articles, and to find out about 'peer-reviewed' journal articles.

Databases are collections of keyword-searchable information sources. The library gives you access to over 200 databases.

The contents of most databases are only accessible through paid Library subscriptions, so you must authenticate (or log in) as a Federation student to gain access to the full-text of the articles. You will often encounter a request to authenticate if you search in Google Scholar.

While there are a few general databases, most databases specialise in particular discipline areas, so make sure to choose one that is relevant to your studies.

Searching a subject-specific database will always return fewer results than QuickSearch, but those results will be more focused towards your subject area.

To find databases that are specific to your discipline area, use the Subject Guides; each Guide has links to recommended databases. If you know the name of the database you want to use, you can also search for it by using the Databases tab and consulting either the A-Z listings or the drop-down menu of major hosts. 

Google Scholar can be a useful way to perform a Google search for journal articles.

As with Google:

  1. Enter your keywords
  2. Hit search
  3. Get results, and often pretty good results.

However it isn't always as straightforward as that, and Google Scholar does have its drawbacks as well as benefits.

Click on the accordion to see a table of differences.

Library databases vs Google Scholar
a table of differences between library databases and Google Scholar
Libary databases Google Scholar
Provide the ability to focus search by subject area. Does not have the ability to focus search by subject area.
Allow users to sort results according to date and relevance. Does not have an easy way to sort articles in your results list.
Allow users to sort results by type of material

(academic journal, magazine, newspaper, etc).

Does not clearly specify what type of material

(academic journal, magazine, newspaper, etc) is in the results list.

Contain the ability to limit searches by a variety of criteria Does not have full criteria to limit your search results.
Will never charge you for the full text of an article if the Federation University Library has a subscription to that database Provides full text of some electronic articles but other articles may request a fee in order to access the full text.

Table from Howard Community College Library. Why a Database Might Be a Better Choice than Google Scholar.

  1.  Go to Google Scholar ( 
  2. Find the Settings cog - this may differ between browsers and Google Scholar interface updates. Try clicking on the three lines in the top left corner.
  3. In Settings, click on Library Links in the left hand column
  4. Enter FEDERATION into the dialog box, choose Federation University Australia from the tick boxes and click Save
  5. Results may have
    • PDF or HTML available for free
    • "Find it @ Federation" link which will prompt you to authenticate as a Federation student. The image below depicts an article that is both freely available and available through the library.
    • Neither - these results are not freely available, usually because the library does not subscribe to that database.

screenshot of google scholar result with free pdf or library link highlighted

If you do choose to search Google Scholar, there are a few things you can do to make your experience better.

Although Google Scholar doesn't have a particularly sophisticated Advanced Search it can still 

  • Phrase search
  • Limit by date
  • Limit by author

screenshot of google scholar advanced search

Similarly, the results interface can only

  • limit results by date
  • sort results by relevance

Each set of results have clickable links that are a pathway to additional results

screenshot of google scholar result with 3 useful links highlighted

  1. Cite - Google Scholar can auto-generate a citation in one of five referencing styles. 
    • Always check any auto-generated citation with FedCite to confirm accuracy.
  2. Cited by [number] - this shows how many articles have cited this particular article. Each one of those results may also have cited by links as well. QuickSearch has a similar feature with the 'red arrows' that may appear with each result.
  3. Related articles - links to .. related articles on the subject. May link to more articles than in the 'Cited by'

Many students will have a requirement to use peer-reviewed journal articles for their assessments.

QuickSearch and most databases have either a filter for peer-review, or they only index peer-reviewed journals in their collections. However, Google Scholar does not offer a peer-review filter, so how can a researcher confirm that a Google Scholar result is peer-reviewed?

Ulrich's Periodicals is a site that can confirm if a journal is peer-reviewed.

  1. Copy name of journal e.g. 'The Review of Corporate Finance Studies'
  2. Go to Ulrich's Periodicals - Databases tab > Databases A-Z > U > Ulrich's Periodicals
  3. Paste title into dialog box
  4. In the table, find your journal. If it has this icon, that means it is peer-reviewed ulrich's referee icon*

screenshot of ulrich's search and results

How do I?


Click on each drop-down to learn more:

1. Use the Subject Guides . Each subject-specific guide has a list of recommended databases.

2. Use the Databases tab on the library homepage. The top drop-down box allows you to select a subject area.

Or on the same Databases tab you can use the 'Search by databases A-Z' link to see the full list of library subscribed databases.

1. Go to the Fake News Subject Guide, and then the 'News Sources' tab for a list of the subscription news databases subscribed to by the library.

2. Go to the Databases tab on the library homepage and select the Search by databases A-Z list link. Use the middle drop-down box marked 'All Database Types' and select 'Newspapers' to see a complete listing of newspaper databases subscribed to by the library.

The library subscribes to a range of video databases that have recordings of Australian free-to-air news reports, documentaries, programs, educational videos and film.

To find the video databases go to the Databases tab on the library homepage and select the Search by databases A-Z list link. Use the middle drop down box marked 'All Database Types' and select 'Videos' to see a complete listing of video databases subscribed to by the library.

There will often be a PDF to download somewhere on the page, however each database platform has different layouts, so the PDF download link may not always be in the same place on the page.

The library's subscriptions do not cover all content on a database, so there may be some results that are not available and display a pay-wall message. If you are an undergraduate student at Federation University, and you encounter a paywall message while you are logged in, then you may need to look for a different journal article. 

Most databases have availability icons or a tick-box option to display only full-text results within the library's subscriptions.

Remember, you can always ask for help from a librarian using the chat pop-out at the side of this guide