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Articles & Databases: Using Library Databases

Using Library Databases


This guide explains in a general sense what library databases are and how to use them, then shows examples from some database vendors found in the SDCC Library's A-Z Databases List

What is a Database?

In the basic sense, a database is a searchable collection of things. For example, it could be a sock collection (sort by color, size, brand, or textile); it could be a set of telephone numbers in your mobile phone (sort by name); or it could a file cabinet full of patient records at a doctor's office (sort by name or medical record number). When you walk through the aisles of books on the Library's third floor, you're actually walking through a huge book database (sort by call number)!

The SDCC Library has 60+ databases (also called online databases or electronic databases) that house collections of articles that were published in journals, magazines and/or newspapers. The Library also has several databases that are collections of videos and films.

Why use a Database?

SDCC Library provides online databases as a means to find credible information that is suitable to support your academic studies. The Web, in contrast, has information of varying quality since anyone can post anything they want without editors or gatekeepers.


title slide from idea to library

Where do research articles come from? How do they end up in your search results? This video has the answers. (2 min 28 sec)





Article databases at SDCC Library provide readings that have gone through an editorial process prior to being published. The level of academic credibility may vary with format (academic journal vs magazine vs newspaper).


slide anatomy of scholarly articleCan you tell the difference between an article from an academic journal vs an article from a popular magazine? Watch this video to find out. (4 min 48 sec)





Some scholarly journals may have quite a rigorous editorial process, requiring the article pass through a panel of experts (peers) that reviews the article before it is allowed to be published. That process may be called "peer-reviewed" or "refereed".


How do articles get peer reviewed? What role does peer review play in scholarly research and publication? Watch this video to find out. (3 min 15 sec)

Databases @ SDCC Library

San Diego City College Library has over 60 online databases, which are electronic collections that include academic articles, e-books, and streaming videos. These collections are available to you 24 hours per day on the A-Z Databases page.

The Library licenses these collections from various vendors, including EBSCO, Gale, Congressional Quarterly (CQ), Oxford, and ProQuest.  This means the look and feel of each vendor's interface will differ, though the skills you need to search through the collections are basically the same.

Our major collections are listed below by vendor. Each collection has a page in this guide (or a related guide) with details for finding, viewing and downloading items.

Finding Articles in Databases

Many of SDCC Library's databases contain scholarly articles, and there are several ways to find them using OneSearch, EBSCO Articles link, and the A-Z Databases list. This video will quickly show you each method. If you view it on YouTube, a descriptive transcript below the screen will give more detail.

NOTE: The library web site has been updated, so the layout of the screens may vary a bit, but the content is similar. 

Tips & Tricks


  • Once you click a link on a database link, you'll be prompted for your student ID number and last name to log in (authenticate).
  • You must be currently taking or teaching a class at City College in order to access our databases. Licensing is restricted to City College students, staff, and faculty. However, if you're taking a class at more than one college in our district, you have access to their databases as well as City's.
  • Your search results may include only summaries of articles instead of the full text. Sometimes publishers and authors opt out of databases. In that case, find a similar article or ask a librarian for assistance.  
  • Online databases will automatically log you off after a certain amount of inactivity (times vary by vendor), so remember to email yourself the citations or take good notes so you don't lose your work!


  • Use the Advanced Search function in a database to help you find articles faster than just using the default basic search box. 
  • Look for icons inside the database that allow you to download, print, and/or email an article.
  • Most databases have a way to help you cite your source, and some even provide formatting for certain style guides like MLA or APA (just be sure to check the final citation against a real style guide).

More Database Collections

Access to Databases at Mesa College Library and Miramar College Library:

Due to licensing agreements, access to San Diego City College databases are restricted to users registered at San Diego City College. However, if you were teaching or taking classes at more than one college in the SDCCD district (City AND Mesa, for example), you have access to those colleges' databases.

Public Library Databases

More online databases may be found at local public libraries, which you can use after you get one of their free library cards. Often their databases complement those at City and you are funding these with your tax dollars, so it's worth a look to see what they have. 

**Remote Access Guidelines

Access to Library Resources from Off-Campus Locations

How the login system works: You are automatically eligible only if you are currently taking a class or teaching a class.

  • Students: When you click on a database link or an e-book, you will be prompted for your student email address and your mySDCCD password. You must be currently taking at least one City College class and have fully paid your tuition and fees in order to log in. If you are having problems with your login, please email

  • Staff: You are not automatically added to the system from PeopleSoft. To request a login, or if you are having problems logging in, email

  • Faculty: You are automatically added to the system from PeopleSoft if you are teaching in the current semester/session. If your status is different, or you are having problems with your login, please email

Common issues: 

  • Some databases require that your browser be set to accept all cookies.

  • Security software may interfere with a database's user authentication protocol. You may have to temporarily disable it in order to connect to a database.

Guide Author

Sandra V. Pesce, PhD ~ Librarian/Professor Electronic Resources ~

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