You already know that we have hundreds of scholarly, well-organized article databases about every topic under the sun. You go to the Engineering list to look for engineering topics and to the Sociology list to look for sociological topics; that’s fine.

But here’s a great trick for finding paper topics as well as looking at things from a different point of view: put search words from one field into another field’s database. For example:

Put engineering, medicine, or science terms into the list of Music databases. I put signal process* in the title search and got some very interesting hits that included acoustics, cochlear implants, and tone profiles (and an article from Guitar Player about the effects of pedals and stomp boxes).

Enter “global health” (use quotation marks to search as a phrase) as title words in Compendex, the major database for engineering topics. One of the articles you’ll get is Perspective on diagnostics for global health.

Philosopher’s Index is just loaded with great science fiction topics. For example, put the word posthuman* on one row and transhuman* on the next row, separated by OR. Some very cool articles show up. (Oh, look, some of them have “cyborg” in the subject terms, too!) Don’t forget to add an asterisk (*) to the end of the word so that you get all the possible word variations, and make sure to sort your results by date.

Try this just for fun: put the following words into these individual databases as title searches (look up the databases in the A-Z list), and be amazed at the interesting  articles you find. Here, let’s look at some:

  • Index Islamicus:  modernismIslam, the constitutional state, and political modernism: the thorny issue of freedom of worship
  • Anthropology Plus:  privacy – Identity, social status, privacy and face-keeping in digital society
  • Military and Government Collection: ethics An analytical look into police ethics
  • Business Source Complete“solar energy”The 2011-2016 Outlook for Water and Air Solar Energy Collectors in the United States
  • ATLA Religion Databasebiomed*Longing for health: a practice of religious healing and biomedicine compared

So when you want a fresh perspective on a topic, go to a database or list of databases that are completely unrelated to it. (And please do leave us a comment about anything you find that’s really fascinating!)

One thought on “Use Subject Databases in a New Way

  1. Great post Sue V.! This is a strategy I never thought of, and will now mention to classes I teach.

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